One of my favorite stories is when Jesus heals a man who had been born blind since birth. After Jesus heals him, the religious leaders curse him and declare that he is following a man not connected to God. The man responds with…
Why, that’s very strange! He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know anything about him! Well, God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”(30-33)
Their response? They accuse him of being ‘born in sin’ (meaning that his blindness was due to sin), shame him for his boldness in daring to teach them, and then throw him out of the synagogue. Publicly shamed and rejected from their religious club, this is where Jesus re-enters the story.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered, ‘Who is he, sir, because I would like to.’ ‘You have seen him,’ Jesus said, ‘and he is speaking to you!’ “’Yes, Lord,’ the man said, ‘I believe!’ And he worshiped Jesus. (35-38)
Do you hear what happened? Jesus must have gotten wind of the mistreatment and searched him out. Why?
Perhaps to affirm his identity and self-worth
Perhaps to address the shame
Perhaps to take a stand with him during a time of isolation and abandonment
Perhaps to simply state that it was not his fault
Perhaps to reveal himself to this man, offer comfort, and befriend him
Perhaps it was all of these and so much more.
Jesus went and found him because he loved him.
How long did this healed man wander around before Jesus came and found him? What did he feel? What did this do to his identity? His self-esteem? Who supported him during this public shaming? Who jeered at him and abandoned him? What sort of state was he in when Jesus finally found him?
I know these feelings of rejection…being passed over…dismissed…shamed for who I am and what I believe. I know what it feels like to be in this desperate place of low self-worth, and being ‘cast aside’. Don’t we all? At some time or another, haven’t we all experienced a strong rejection simply for who we are?
Our world is uncomfortable with pioneers who shake things up…ask new questions…or simply people who get healed and want to share about it.
This story has shaped my faith over the decades in my walk with God, but most importantly it has shaped my friendship and my understanding of who Jesus is and how he deals with those of us being rejected. I love what this reveals about Jesus….
Sometimes we will be rejected simply for who we are, and even though this cuts the deepest, Jesus has not forgotten us and he comes looking for us.
Jesus always goes after the rejected. He comes after us and finds us.
He finds us to restore us
To reshape our identity
To affirm us
To raise us up…and to help us forgive. Like the healed blind man, this is why I too worship Him.
Jesus found me when I was rejected for being a woman, not allowed to lead or teach in religious circles even though I had more theology training than most as well as gifts of both leadership and teaching. I had wandered dazed, confused, trying to get affirmation from religious leaders…but being hurt instead. Doubting my identity, mistrusting who I was, and even angry for being born as a woman…Jesus came looking for me. He confirmed my perspective, my identity, my purpose, healed my wounded heart. and taught me to forgive. Jesus gave me permission to live fully for who I am and who I am meant to be. He taught me how to love those who want to curse me, shame me, and reject me. He taught me where to offer my gifts, spend my time, and give of my energy. He gave me permission to ‘bless and release’.
I realized I was spending much of my energy by either trying to apologize for who I was and/or defending my beliefs – my attention and energy were going to unproductive places. It wore me out. But Jesus took my anger, my shame, and my bitterness and replaced it with forgiveness, new vision, new hope, new opportunities, new permission, and new confidence.
So how does this affect me now?
I still go to a large church with an all-male elder board trying to figure out if women should be leading and teaching. Yep…sometimes it’s hard. So why do I do this? Several reasons – My kids love the church and I like the idea of being at the same place as a family. I love the people and Jesus keeps asking me to just wait.
Does this mean my passion has lessened? Nope. Does this mean I’ve stopped believing in the value of advocacy for gender rights? Nope. Does this mean I’ve stopped stating what I believe when asked? Nope.
But when Jesus found me outside the religious circles, we became great friends. I ask him for guidance regarding when to speak honestly and when to take a stand, but mostly, I am being called to live in this unresolved tension and dare to love boldly. Learning to honor one another wherever we are on our journeys is my area of growth. I am learning to engage a new strength…not one of just advocacy…but one of love.
In this safe posture of release, Jesus has gently turned me toward places, people, and opportunities where my gifts are needed.
For instance, I am working in a coaching capacity with the executive leadership of a large multi-million dollar organization comprised of all men (God’s sense of humorous affirmation) to develop and support their leadership…even though I’m not recognized as a viable leadership option in my own church.
I partner with clients from countries all around the globe in personal coaching to support high potential and thriving lives…even though I’m not allowed to offer leadership development in my own church.
I successfully founded a coaching company with retreats, conferences, and workshops to support a thriving life…even though I’m not allowed to teach a coaching workshop in my own church.
Does this sting?
Yep…but not like it used to. I am becoming stronger and I am using my strength to dare to love even when I am rejected – to speak the truth unflinchingly, but still honor the relationship. To stay in a community of people and hold an unresolved tension while still believing that we are all on a journey. And when it becomes a little too hard…or I feel a little too alone…I return to my friendship with Jesus.
Jesus. Finds. Me. Every. Time.
I have learned to use this rejection to drive me deeper into Jesus and gain my identity affirmation there…not from those around me. And He continues to bless me beyond my wildest imagination. I hear His whispers about my gifts and how they were given to be used to the fullest potential. Not to frustrate me or be blocked by others. I am working all over the world as HE confirms my identity…awakens my potential…and allows visions bigger than I can even conceive to come true. In learning to lean heavily into this relationship with God, I release my own agenda and discover the joy of how ‘big’ He thinks for me. God is passionately pursuing me and revealing the potential I hold while teaching me what it means to do life together in partnership. I find myself wanting more of God.
And like the man who was formerly blind, I too choose to worship Jesus believing that God is listening.
Jesus has not forgotten me.
Jesus found me.