Earlier this week, I wrote about the small, little voice in my head using the word “rejection” to describe how I’m experiencing this new information about my birth parents.
I appreciate your comments and support in response to that post. And I want to reiterate that while it is a piece of the puzzle, it is by no means the majority of the puzzle.
In the past few days, I’ve been reflecting more theologically about this sense of rejection.
I certainly feel God’s presence in the midst of it all. As I mentioned before, I’m thankful for the “rejection” because I wouldn’t have the life I have now without it.
I often think of Jesus’ own status as an adopted child.
No matter what you think about the virgin birth, there is a sense that God sent God’s own son to be “adopted” by Joseph, raised in another home.
I’ve often found comfort in the 8th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans (vs 15-17):
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
The passage in Romans reminds us that in our relationship with God, all of us, whether we are adopted in our human families or not, all of us are adopted into God’s family.
So where does rejection fit in with God?
Rejection has never been my experience of God. I’ve experienced God’s provision, care, and love in every part of being adopted.
Again, from later in Romans 8:32:
“He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”
Most people probably hear “gave him up” in reference to salvation. I want to make sure you also hear the resonance with adoption. Because “giving up” is adoption language. I was given up for adoption. I gave my first born son up for adoption too. Adoption is not unrelated to God and God’s saving work in the world through the person of Jesus.
Rejection is language Jesus voiced, at the cross.
In Matthew 27:46, Jesus’ last words are:
“And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
I am hesitant to use illustrations where I am comparing myself to Jesus.
I’m really trying not to do that. I am not dying on a cross. I am not the savior of the world. (You’re welcome, everyone).
But by Jesus’ becoming embodied, God with us, he shows us how to live. And I am reminded I am not alone in my experience. Even God has experienced rejection.
Further, when Jesus said that on the cross, he was quoting Psalm 22. Much of the psalm is a bit of a downer, I’ll confess.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
But the psalm doesn’t end in the dust of death.
It ends in praise.
vs 22: I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
More than praise, it ends in praise that leads to service to others:
vs 25-26: From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!
Our praise, even (especially) in the face of pain and loss, is praise that turns us toward others, where the poor shall eat and be satisfied.
So Jesus, in the midst of his darkest moment, sends us to Psalm 22, where we don’t deny our feelings of loss, pain, and rejection. He sends us to Psalm 22, where we move through loss and toward praise and service.
That works for me.
None of my feelings are being denied or erased. But it doesn’t leave me in the midst of rejection. Quite frankly, I don’t want to get stuck in a place where my heart is like wax. Knowing God has heard my pain, knowing Jesus has experienced rejection too, and having a positive way to move from pain to praise is real and life-giving.
And if Jesus can quote Psalm 22 on the cross, I can quote it too, connecting my story to the divine story, finding praise, hope, and purpose in the midst of it all.