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On rejection

Kate Barrett | Thursday, February 15, 2007

I was rejected last week. I can’t hang an employment rejection letter on my door or claim a broken heart, but I did try to offer a part of myself to the local community and was kindly but firmly told, “Thanks, but no thanks.”In response to numerous local stories and even emails regarding the great need for donated blood, I headed over to the South Bend Medical Foundation Blood Bank to share some of mine. It had been years since I had given blood, so I sat and filled out several forms and then a woman named Melissa led me into the Screening Room. She apparently had quite a list of Screening Questions to ask me, but we started with my blood pressure. We also ended with my blood pressure, which, as it turns out, is too low to donate blood. Melissa even checked it twice, on both arms. 98-over-56 falls under their official cutoff and I would have, Melissa assured me, passed out upon donation. “Ha!” I wanted to shout. “Too low?? People would pay money for blood pressure like mine! Half the country has given up salt and gone on medication just to get this kind of blood pressure!” Instead, I tried to smile at Melissa. “I just wanted to help,” I said lamely. Melissa seemed to think I was about to cry because she hastily got my coat and ushered me out of the Screening Room.The weird thing is, I almost did feel like crying. I, the blood donor failure, sat in my car in the blood bank parking lot and became reacquainted with rejection. Remember how it felt the last time someone told you, “You’re not good enough,” or “You’re not needed,” or (in honor of yesterday), “I really like you … just not in that way”? No matter how valiantly you try to keep the smile on your face, you suddenly feel your throat closing up and a sour lump in the pit of your stomach. It takes strength to accept rejection, especially while trying to maintain a little dignity at the same time.As hard as it is to be the “reject-ee,” sometimes it takes strength to be the “reject-or” as well. As we approach the season of Lent this year, you will notice in the Sunday Gospels how Jesus both rejects and and faces rejection. On the first Sunday of Lent every year we hear accounts from the different gospel writers of Jesus rejecting Satan’s tempting offers to idolatry, power, and self-sufficiency. By the time we get to Palm Sunday, six weeks later, we hear how many people have rejected Jesus: Judas, Peter and the ugly crowds that included the religious and civil leaders of the day.The beautiful lesson of Jesus’ example, both as “reject-or” and “reject-ee,” is that his story ended in victory. He teaches us how to reject whatever turns us away from God, whether it’s worshipping false gods, enjoying our status too much or believing we don’t need God. Out of the ultimate rejection, of course, arose the ultimate triumph: from Jesus’ death came resurrection and the offer he makes to each of us of eternal life.In my own family during this Lent, we will try to become more aware of what we need to reject, of what is deviously trying to lure us away from God. However, we also have to concentrate on how we sometimes reject each other – either unknowingly or on purpose – in speech or actions. I have suggested to my kids that as a family we give up all unkind words this Lent, as we each know (as most families do) exactly what to say to wound those we love the most.It’s probably not such a bad idea to allow that rejected feeling to stay close to the surface in our lives. It can give us a moment’s pause before we carelessly speak harshly, as well as the courage to turn rejection into victory. We’ve each felt like a failure at times, which we should keep in mind whenever we’re about to cause another to feel the same. As we enter into Lent next week, we can listen in our prayer for Jesus’ words to us, and offer his love to those we encounter: “You are good enough. You are needed. I really do like you … yes, in every way.”

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Kate Barrett, director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.eduThe views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.