When a child is born into the world, often the first face they see is a doctor or nurse followed by their mother and father. Then in their early years and all the years before they leave home, they will see their parents’ faces probably more than anyone else. Single–parent homes will add a different dynamic to this experience.
Over the years their parents’ faces will communicate different emotions to them. In an emotionally healthy family, lots of love, acceptance, sense of belonging, respect, and appreciation will be communicated. In an unhealthy family, just the opposite, or a confusing mixture of false and true messages, will be communicated and will leave the child with the wound of rejection.
The wound of rejection has to be one of the most difficult wounds to heal. It occurs not only in parent–child relationships, but also in husband–wife, sibling, peer, employer–employee, and priest/pastor–flock relationships. It cuts deep because it communicates to the person not that they are doing something wrong, but that there is something wrong with them.
The face they see in their mind’s eye tells them that they are defective, second-rate, not good enough, and unlovable. For many this face, and its false messages will plague them the rest of their lives.
It would be foolish for me to try to pretend to solve a complex problem like this in one blog post. However, it is not foolish for someone like me, who has also felt the sting of rejection, to try to provide a helpful beginning.
For starters, one thing that helped me was to realize that the person(s) who rejected me didn’t reject me because I was inherently unlovable; they rejected me because they didn’t have the wherewithal, inner resources, or ability to love me like I needed to be loved. It wasn’t about me; it was about them. Embracing this truth, for many people, can be the beginning of healing.
Another thing that helped me was contemplative prayer. Now when many people hear the words “contemplative prayer,” they feel intimidated and think that such a thing must be reserved only for mystics, monks, and very holy people. That’s not true. Contemplative prayer is for everybody.
When St. John Vianney entered his church and found an old farmer praying, he asked him what he was doing and the peasant told him, “I look at him and he looks at me.” That’s contemplative prayer. St. Teresa of Avila said that “Contemplative prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than a close sharing between friends.”
We see the face of Jesus and he sees us and there is an intimate exchange. Contemplative prayer is helpful for the person who is wounded by rejection because they replace the face of the person(s) who has/have wounded them and their false messages with the face of Christ and his true messages about you. So the main question for us as we read this is “Whose face are we looking at?”
I hope that it’s the face that I see in Zephaniah 3:16 and 17. Please remember that what is said in this passage to Israel under the old covenant is even more true to us today under a better covenant and one greater than Moses (Jesus):
“On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.'”
God is singing. Why? Because he is rejoicing and delighting over us with an overflowing, super–abundant love. This is the face of Christ that should replace the other faces that we constantly see that have given us the wound of rejection.
Additional to this, it’s also important to have friends and family that become the face of Christ to us or what a psychologist friend of mine called “Jesus with skin on.” With all these things in place we can truly shout from the rooftops, “Let the healing begin!”
If you like this post from Jonathan Coe, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that now can be purchased at this link:
cover art/photo: http://www.adventistonline.com