Rejection, on some day and in some way, is going to face you. Don’t worry, it happens to us all. I want you to know now, before that times hits, that your work may be rejected but you are not.
In June I committed to submitting a piece to be considered for a women’s devotional, knowing that other phenomenal writers were doing the same work. This was the first Bible study I’d ever written and the first piece I’d ever submitted. The odds of my work being chosen were slim to none.
But I got to work. I checked out books from the library and scoured the study Bibles on my shelves. I found tips online for writing devotionals. I pulled up sermon archives, filled up pages of notes, and clicked back and forth between tabs on my screen.
The words I worked so hard to study came to me like a fresh stroke of paint on the canvas, revealing to me another shade in the portrait of God.
I knew writing devotionals wasn’t my expertise; that only became clearer the further I trudged into this essay. But as I studied and strung words together on the page, I gave way to the hope that even if I failed, this would still be worth it. The narrative in my heart believed so quietly,
“But even if I lose, I still got to spend hours doing a work that I love and worshipping a Savior I love. And that’s worth it.”
Committed to the finish, I relinquished my grip on the piece and submitted it early in a physical act of forgetting any control I had.
Then I waited.
The odds that my piece would not be chosen lingered in the back of my mind, but the hope that God works in mysterious ways stayed with me. After all, He loves to surprise us, right?
In late September I received that rejection email I had been bracing myself for all along. I held on to a sliver of hope that anything was possible all the way until I opened that email. But the words were clear. My piece had not been chosen for submission.
I wasn’t surprised. But still, I sat for a moment, staring at that rejection email. Rejection has never been easy for me. My sinful tendency is to tie my productivity to my worth; it’s too easy for me to believe that if I don’t do the right things, then I’m not good enough. I waited for that familiar wave of shame rooted in my perfectionism to wash over me. Waited to feel like I wasn’t worthy today –
My lungs inhaled deeply and my voice broke through the silence in that empty room, “Okay.”
My piece might not have been chosen, but that made me no less of a writer.
My work was rejected, but I was not.
I deleted the email, picked up my bag, and headed onward. And as I moved forward in the coming moments, days, weeks, I realized that rejection was fruit. It was not a thing to shame me. It was not a roadblock.
That rejection helped me.
It required me to step outside of my safety zone, and to do something meaningful that lifted my eyes up. It was evidence that victory is growing closer to the Lord. And sometimes that means losing the thing you thought you might deserve.
I had to realize that even on this side of that “no,” I am still picked to write and picked to study the ways of God. Even if my words aren’t for everyone. Even if it doesn’t feel good enough. Even when I come up short. My calling remains because it’s in those quiet moments of writing that I feel most alive to Him. Being near to Him is the victory.
We know the truth that God chooses the unlikely ones to bring about His glory. We know that He uses the hands that appear weakest to work His will. That the ones with the smallest following can have the widest reach. We know that He uses the smallest people to display His big purposes. I’m not discounting that.
But I do think it’s possible that sometimes God will place something on your heart that you’re not meant to succeed at.
You’ll think it means victory as you see it. You’ll think it means being the chosen one or authoring the winning essay. You’ll think it means being well-liked and followed.
But sometimes victory looks like a loss.
I knew it was quite unlikely that I’d win this writing contest of sorts. Success happened the moment I examined the risk of failure, and still chose to obediently follow God’s nudging to take a step toward it.
It happened when I committed to the unseen hours of study and writing just because I felt He gave me an idea. Even before my writing was placed in the hands of someone else, success came when I chose to be faithful to the opportunity given.
Dear one, do you see it?
You are not counted out because you were rejected.
The endeavor wasn’t wasted just because your work was not deemed winner. You accepted the call, put the long hours into the practice, and believed that God had His divine purposes even in the possibility of being unchosen. Rejection can’t shake a faith like that.
I talked to Travis just last night about some feelings of jealousy and rejection heavy on my heart. Those feelings stemmed from something totally unrelated to this story. But he so fittingly prayed something like this:
As I step into new classrooms and places, greet new faces, I have to remind myself that my work might at times be rejected; but I am not. The work of my hands will come up short, but it’s already a success because God is at work in ways I may not ever get the privilege of seeing.
I’m no less called than I was before that rejection email, and that is really good news for a perfectionist just trying to make the world a sweeter place.