{Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of Jennifer’s series, where she shares in Part 1 her personal struggle with negative thinking, here rejection and in Part 3 her struggle with insecurity. We hope Jennifer’s willingness to share candidly about her personal struggles will help you and/or someone you love who struggles. God is a God of redemption and He is able.}

Rejection…

I’d always loved and admired Victoria. I clearly remember the moment in my childhood when she told me about salvation and about how to accept Jesus into my heart. During her visits, I’d stay by her side, following her around stores, our house, and for long walks outside. If she cooked, I cooked. If she read, I’d grab a book. And when she would leave to go home, I’d sit in bed and cry.

As I grew up, I overcame the sitting-in-bed-and-crying bit, but we stayed close. Through college, I visited her when I could and continued to follow her around—to Bible studies, church, taking meals to people, and running errands. She had a passion and love for Christ I’d not seen in many people. Perhaps it resulted from coming to Christ in midlife after four decades of pain and strife. In many ways, I considered Victoria more than family—she was a mentor like the one mentioned in Titus 2.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live…to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women…

Titus 2:3-4

As I got married and moved to the suburbs in DFW, I enjoyed many visits from Victoria. She often had people to visit in the area or events to attend, and so she would stay with my family as she went about her business.

Then my husband got offered a job transfer to another state and we had the opportunity to live in the same town as Victoria! Although overwhelmed with all the details of a move with two toddlers, one on the severe end of the autism spectrum, I looked forward to being closer to Victoria. While house hunting, we’d planned to stay with a family with kids similar in age to our own, but at the last minute that house got struck with a stomach virus. In a panic, I called Victoria and asked if we could stay with them.

I want to tell the next part of my story with respect and ask that you hang in there with me to the end where I give some perspective I’ve gained…

When Victoria called back, I expected to make plans of when to arrive, but instead she explained to me that my children were not welcome in her house. I was welcome, my husband was welcome, but kids were not.

It took me a while to process her words. I knew Rachel (my younger child on the autism spectrum) had many challenging behaviors, but I never expected to be rejected by family, especially considering our past relationship.

Her reasoning stung the most. She backed up her statement with what she felt were spiritual reasons. And in that moment, our relationship suffered a terrible blow.

We ended up moving a couple miles from their home and lived there for five years. During that half a decade, I only visited her house a handful of times. If I went by with the kids in the car, we sat in the driveway. The Rules never changed. She wasn’t the only person who refrained from inviting us over with Rachel, and I do understand and respect when people set boundaries, but I will be honest—it’s so hard having that kind of situation, especially for a social person like myself. But because of the relationship I’d assumed I had with Victoria, that rejection hurt all the way down to my soul.

I did see her at other family functions, but the sting of rejection followed me for a long time. The song in my heart was one of anger and hurt; sadness and rejection. And, if I’m honest, one of disappointment. As I considered Victoria a mentor, I felt like a pillar in my life had fallen. Since that day, I’ve had to do some work on several levels to forgive and understand.

What I’ve learned:

People are always going to disappoint us.

The only person who has ever managed to live a perfect life was Jesus. That means I disappoint people too. In fact, I disappointed Victoria often in those five years we lived nearby. For me, this has been one of the first keys to forgiveness both for myself and for others. I’m not perfect, so I can’t expect others to be perfect. In fact, when I start expecting perfection from myself and from others, my whole life goes out of balance. (More about that in the next post on insecurity.)

Plus, I’d put Victoria on a pedestal and she didn’t belong there. I don’t care how nice, dynamic, or wonderful they seem, No Human Belongs on a Pillar or Pedestal. Jesus is perfect, but when we start looking for perfection in a person who is fully human, we will be disappointed and disillusioned every … single … time.

The truth is written in black and white for us in the Bible:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Romand 3:23

And then a step further in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

If Christ could stare in the face of those who nailed him to a cross and say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” then I must follow His example.

People don’t always understand what they don’t experience.

In my situation, Victoria had a very different family dynamic than I did. She had two children almost a decade apart and she was able to run a tight ship, so to speak. And she’d been an empty nester for decades by this point. My husband and I have done a lot of work to help Rachel learn how to behave, but for years people made the assumption I was a neglectful or poor parent because she was out of control. But our older child didn’t have those same struggles, so it wasn’t all me. Autism can be challenging, especially in those early years, and it’s difficult for people who haven’t lived with it to understand.

This is where we have to exercise compassion. I say exercise because I’m going to be honest… Compassion, like a bootcamp workout, isn’t always easy (is it ever easy?). Compassion is a muscle, so to speak, that has to be worked out and exercised in order to come easier. But the good news is that Jesus has in inexhaustible supply of compassion.

And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

When I lack the strength to be compassionate, I have to pray for it. “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” John 14:14. I quote this with a caveat and the link I included gives the verse in more context. If you ask for a private jet in Jesus’s name, you might get one, but you’ll also get the gagillion-dollar payment on it. But when we ask Jesus to help us love others through his strength, I think it’s safe to say he will give us his strength.

Forgiveness isn’t just about the other person.

I can’t tell you whether or not Victoria was affected by what I considered to be a relationship changer. In fact, she no longer has a memory of what happened. The thing is, the longer I held onto that hurt, the more it hurt me.

Imagine this: A girl with a rock garden decides one day to write on each rock a hurt she has experienced. She then takes those rocks and puts them in a backpack, which she wears at all times. No one else knows what’s in the pack. No one knows their names are in her bag. Only she knows, and each day she walks around those rocks pull harder on her. Pretty soon her back is out of alignment, she can’t sleep—because who can sleep on a bag of rocks?—her feet are blistered and sore. And she’s totally exhausted. If she doesn’t want the bag of rocks to ruin her, she’s going to have to give up the bag, which leads me into my next point…

Forgiveness isn’t always easy.

But forgiveness is worth it. One of the ways I walked through my feelings with Victoria was praying for God to give me his perspective. Victoria came from a harsh background. Her father was a hard man, and from the stories I’ve heard, that is putting it mildly. She grew up in a world dominated by control, so controlling her environment was the way she learned to cope with trauma. And though we didn’t know it at the time, Victoria would later be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the point we had that conversation, perhaps her reasoning wasn’t what it used to be.

Even if that’s not the case, Victoria is a human being like the rest of us. She’s going to do things that don’t make sense, she’s going to do her best to make sense of the world that isn’t always easy to navigate, and she’s going to mess up. Let she who is without sin cast the first stone.

Furthermore, I had to make a choice. Was I going to live hindered by this anger and feeling of rejection or was I going to let it go and trust God to be God? Do I truly believe he is powerful enough to take care of all situations? Yes! Then I need to let him. And as Victoria slips further into the haze Alzheimer’s, I’m glad that I was able to put aside my hurt feelings and continue to love her.

I also have been keeping a forgiveness journal. It’s not that I spend all my time writing down who makes me mad, but when I’m struggling with an issue, I journal to God and write out my declaration of forgiveness. Although it’s hard, sometimes REALLY hard, I’ve been finding freedom in this exercise. In addition to this, sometimes when I sit in my closet by myself, I pray over situations with my hands open, symbolizing that I’m giving it over to God. He is big enough to carry it. I’m not. Can I get an amen?

I want to encourage you, if the song in your heart is one of pain and rejection, seek God and perhaps a mentor or counselor to help you walk through your situation. The songs in our hearts should be ones of praise and thankfulness to Jesus for the freedom he’s given us. I will touch on this more in the next post, but I promise you, the one true God who always has been and always will be, who created the entire universe with his breath… The infinite, all-powerful, and all-knowing God… That God can and will change the song in your heart.