Rejection 101 – Who Am I?
High school is a truly fascinating and terrifying place. Other than the fact that most high school students in TV shows and movies are played by people in their mid to late 20s, the media portrayal of public high schools isn’t far from the mark. I remember being able to look out across my high school parking lot and tell you, with near certainty, what friend group a person belonged to simply based on where they parked their car. In one section of the parking lot, you would find the country boys, big diesel trucks with lift kits complete with horse trailers covered in mud, all backed in one next to the other. Another section of the lot had all the nice sedans— good gas mileage, responsible, and safe. The students who drove these cars took AP classes, got to school early, and likely played an instrument. The sports kids who had to stay at school a little late all huddled their vehicles in the far corner by the gym doors. Near the back of the lot were those who got there late, didn’t care much about their attendance or grades, drove older cars covered in edgy bumper stickers. You get the idea…
Now, I’m not saying any of this to judge my high school peers, I just find it fascinating that from the second someone got to school, they were already finding “their people.” We could continue this observation throughout the day. Where do people go between classes? What do their lockers look like? Who sits where in the classroom? And don’t even get me started on the very-real hierarchy of lunch tables. It seems as if every action throughout the day was meticulously planned, careful not to cross identity lines.
I remember battling this feeling myself. See, I played the trumpet, but loved heavy metal music, video games, and basketball. If you can put yourself in the mind of a teenager like me for just a moment, ask yourself, “What do I wear to school?” It might seem like a silly question, something so trivial as an outfit, but that outfit, along with where I parked my car and which lunch table I chose all determined whether I was accepted, and by whom.
For many young people, picking an identity can feel like selecting a burger from a menu, and all too often that identity isn’t based on who they want to be, but who they want to be with and a fear that choosing the wrong identity will keep them from community or friendship. Acceptance.
I haven’t spent considerable time in public high schools over the last decade, but I can only imagine what this picture looks like today with the addition of social media platforms designed to showcase the very best we have to offer, filtered if you prefer.
And that’s only teenagers. Not much changes once we grow up and enter the workplace or stay home with the kids. The feeling of needing to carefully curate my identity so I can be accepted is universal. I feel it every time someone on an airplane or in the grocery store asks me the question, “So what do you do?” I know that the second I tell them I work in ministry, the potential for rejection is much higher, and that potential even changes how I respond sometimes. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that it’s easier to say I’m a “consultant” than share the full extent of what I do.
It’s here that we find our first root gospel gap, the fear of rejection; right here where our desire to follow and proclaim Christ comes face to face with our desire to be accepted by others. More on this in a moment, but first, let’s talk about how we’re going to handle these seven root gaps.
As we tackle each gap, we’ll follow a sort of pattern. First, we’ll understand the gap, name it, define it, and maybe use a few real-life examples to wrap our heads around it. Next, we’re going to do what I promised earlier and dive into that core question, “How can I overcome this gap?” We’re going to turn to the perfect Word of God to see what the Lord has to say about these things. Scripture is all-sufficient, meaning it has the answers we need, and we can trust it completely. It’s God’s words, after all! Finally, we’re going to discuss what these biblical solutions look like in our everyday lives and how they draw us and others closer to Christ, complete with things to pray regularly, next steps, and some necessary areas for continued calibration and growth. My goal is simple. I want to identify the problem and turn to Scripture for the solution, all while being as practical and helpful as I can in our current cultural context.
If it helps you, think of what we’re doing like an episode of the show Mythbusters. If you haven’t seen it before, Mythbusters did exactly what the title implied, busted myths. Each episode would begin with two wildly entertaining scientists introducing us to a popular myth. For instance, in episode 23 of season 3, these scientists test the age-old Robin Hood myth by trying to perfectly split an arrow stuck in a target by shooting it with another arrow. Throughout the episode, the myth is explained, recreated, then put to the test, only to receive a grade of “BUSTED,” “PLAUSIBLE,” or “CONFIRMED.”
As we walk through these seven root gaps, we’re going to be doing much of the same. We’ll explain the gap, recreate it, even if only hypothetically, then hold it up to the test of Scripture. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I encourage you to keep your “busted” stamp handy. It’s going to be busy.