This past year a couple of the relationships I valued most in my life came to a seemingly abrupt end. This has been a difficult process for me to find healing, and I am very much so still in that process.
When everything began to unravel, mostly as a result of unhealthy boundaries and turning those relationships into idols, it required a long road of learning how to seek God’s heart all over again. It required my repentance for allowing these people to take over my worship and put God back into his rightful place in my life and in my heart. Truth is, I had drifted quite a ways from allowing God to be the Lord of my life and having an intentional daily walk with Him. That fact broke me just as much as the loss of these people in my life, if not more.
Friends, I will tell you, there were a lot of tears. There was hardly a day that I didn’t feel broken by the way things had fallen apart, or a night where I didn’t feel a bit like David: “I am weary of my sighing, all night long I flood my bed with weeping.” (Psalm 6:6) I listened to a lot of Ascend the Hill in those moments, as that was the music that seemed to soothe and comfort my spirit the most as I grappled with where I went wrong, where I had sinned, and even where I had been sinned against.
If you have ever been in this sort of situation (I feel like most people who have been through a breakup have experienced this), then you know what I am talking about. You know how difficult it can be to reconcile your pain with the tendency to blame the other party and the truth that we too are so often not without fault. Not only do we push the blame off of ourselves and onto the other person, we so often push that blame onto God as well.
It was part of this journey that I began to realize the reason I had put these relationships on such a pedestal was because I had a deep innate fear of rejection. I’ve experienced rejection in almost every facet you can imagine—rejection in the church, from family, from peers, in dating, from jobs, etc. I know in many ways I am not any more special than anyone else and that rejection is a part of life. But dealing with the level of rejection I have throughout the course of my history has left deep ravines of wounds and the need to self-preserve. I made these relationships my own personal saviors in many ways, because they felt safe. And I clung so tight to these people because I was afraid that they would leave me like others had.
I lived with the constant fear that once they learned enough about me, they would realize I wasn’t worth it. With each relationship, I had already shared so much of myself with them, and every time any of my “true colors” were revealed—my messes, the parts of myself that I began to believe were damaged and not worthy of others loving me through—then I would panic. I would usually lash out and push them away. After I lashed out, I would realize that I might lose my friends, and then I would panic all over again and call them or sit down for coffee with sobs and pleading for their forgiveness. Suffice it to say, I was a complete mess. And it was this behavior that ultimately became the self-fulfilling prophecy in my life.
In my prayers and my tears, I began to search for hope and comfort—for truth, in the pages of the bible. I made a goal to read every day until I had read through the whole bible. And while I know many may call this legalism and perhaps, but it was my pain and experience with rejection that drove me into this discipline. Perhaps it was fear, in any case, I was determined to give God precedence and not allow anything else to be my object of devotion or source of hope apart from Him. I needed something tangible to tell myself that I was being intentional in my relationship with God.
And it was this phase of the journey where I came across Exodus 33, the famous passage where Moses petitions God to see His glory. And I was struck with a different perspective of what the scripture was talking about when the Lord tells Moses: “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passes by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not seen.” God tells Moses He would show His back and hide His face.
In our culture, and many other cultures, there are certain aspects of body language that reveal rejection and tell us that we are not worthy of a person’s time and attention. Throughout my life I have become very well-versed in the subtleties of this body language. When a person refuses to look at you, when they hide their face so that they are not seen, when they blatantly turn their backs to you… It struck me in that moment that this was exactly what God was doing to Moses.
This was one of those moments that has the potential to poke holes in our faith due to our offense towards God. Believe me, I have had so many moments of being offended by God that this moment was no longer exactly scary for me. It was an opportunity to ask myself, and God, the hard questions about the scriptures. It is easy for me to get hung up on my offense, getting angry with God because He hurt me, or because He said no… ultimately because He is rejecting me or causing the rejection. The truth is, God never will reject us. I had to wrestle with the fact that God would cause rejection in my life and the lives of others. Why would He do it? And why, in Moses’ case, would it be counted as His “glory” to do so?
Side note: I am encouraging everyone, no matter where you are at in your walk with God, ask God the deep and scary questions as you read through scripture, learn to hear His voice. You may be surprised at what you find and the ways your foundation becomes less shaky in doing so.
In this particular moment, as I said, I knew I was asking myself more than I was asking God. It is part of the exciting mystery of our relationship with our father when He dangles a carrot in the form of a question, knowing there is a paradigm shift that awaits once answers are discovered.
I continued reading, chewing on these questions as I read verse nineteen: “And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.’” What exactly is God’s goodness? Surely not His rejection! No. This question was answered the next chapter: “and He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in all faithfulness and love’” (verse six). God promises to reveal His goodness first, and so He does. But He still turns His back. The rest of verse nineteen states: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and compassion on whom I will have compassion.” “‘But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” It struck me in that moment that while rejection itself is not God’s goodness, sometimes He will use rejection to affirm and reveal His goodness.
He hid His face because “no one may see and live.” I realized a couple things about seeking the face of God. First, in this moment with Moses, He hid His face in order to protect Moses. You read that right; sometimes God hides His face to protect us. Sometimes we experience rejection as a form of protection. I realized in my case, God had removed these relationships in order to protect me. He was saving me from idolatry, further heartbreak, and settling for less than what God had purposed for me. Second, “no one may see and live”—for those who truly seek to see God’s face, it requires dying to ourselves. I am realizing more and more that God will often use rejection to strip away our pride and selfishness in order for us to turn to Him, and surrender, placing Him back in the rightful place in our hearts and lives.
In this journey, I have found that there is glory in rejection. Although I know that this journey is far from over, I am finding that there is tremendous healing in this glory. When we push past the wounds, and past the offense, we find truth and we find God’s grace, mercy and compassion as He is always slow to anger and abounding in love.
“It is the glory of God to reveal a matter, it’s the glory of Kings to seek it out.” Proverbs 25:2
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Matthew 16:25
Dear readers, we truly have no right to be offended. So when we are, embrace it. Press in an seek to understand why we are offended and what that reveals about our hearts and about God’s heart in comparison. Die to yourself and seek His glory.