To The Canceled, Rejected, Unclean: There is Healing!

Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

Ab, it was hard. A couple times it was actually sort of traumatic. I’m healing from other wounds. Now I’m processing this.

I swallowed hard.

This was us.

When Friends Keep Their Distance

Jess offered that in a phone call after our families had been together. She’d seen us up close. Jess was gentle, but I got the gist: our family dynamics were a downer. There was more downside than upside to being with us.

I felt unclean.

Friendship is risky. Traveling with friends is riskier. Sharing bathrooms and kitchens mean that faults will be exposed. And just like that, whatever bloom there was was off the Wallace rose.

Whenever we “put ourselves out there,” we risk being canceled or rejected. And in a Christian culture that promotes relational boundaries even good friends may be wise to draw their lines.

So I don’t blame Jess one bit. The burden of us it was just too much to bear.

Jess needed her distance from us.

Jesus Doesn’t Keep His Distance

But Jesus never did that. He never kept his distance. The Word became flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14)— the contagious, outcast, and unclean. The Son of Man visited his sinful people (Luke 1:68), and said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Our burdens—tense family dynamics, secrets too secret for our best friends, the reasons we travel alone—don’t scare Jesus. Not one bit.

In fact, he knows all about them. He knows your issues better than you do. In fact, he knew you, and your burdens, before you even began to know you.

And Jesus doesn’t keep his distance because our sin doesn’t contaminate him. Our burdens are not to much for him to bear (Matthew 11:28-29). He doesn’t need to place boundaries. In fact, he destroyed the dividing wall that once created hostility and distrust (Ephesians 2:14).

But we’re fragile and frail. Jess is. I am. You are. This side of heaven, we are all saints, sinners and sufferers; we are victims and victimizers.

Healing For The Unclean

That reality hit me when our first-grader was infected by a bigger boy on the school bus. That morning, forever etched, made me want to protect my little boy. I wanted to keep him off the bus, and far away from “that boy.”

So no, I don’t fault Jess. Sin spreads. You can catch bad habits. Disease is contagious.

But there was a woman. She had been bleeding for 12 years. She probably hadn’t had either a husband or a hug in those 12 years because to touch her would make one unclean. This unclean, outcast woman knew that. Still, desperate for healing she risked touching Jesus. She risked making him unclean.

But that’s not what happened. She touched Jesus and immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:25-34.). She didn’t make Jesus unclean. Jesus made her clean.

Jesus Didn’t Socially Distance

You see, in the Old Testament uncleanness, unholiness, was contagious. But in the New Testament, holiness— absolute cleanness and purity— is contagious. Jesus proved that when the woman touched him. In the New Testament, Jesus makes the unclean, outcasts clean.

Jesus brings healing.

We see this in vivid color when the leper came to Jesus.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:40-45, ESV

There’s so much here. But don’t miss how Jesus was, “moved with pity.”

Then, again: how he was not afraid of contamination. Touching a bleeding woman or a leper would leave one unclean. But Jesus doesn’t socially—or ceremonially—distance to avoid infectious disease. He touched the man and made him clean.

Trading Places

As Kevin DeYoung so potently stated, Jesus doesn’t just overlook uncleanness. He conquers it.

Jesus doesn’t just overlook uncleanness. He conquers it.

Kevin DeYOung

DeYoung continues, He conquers it by trading places with it. The one who is unclean is clean and the one who can make everyone clean becomes an outcast. Jesus gives him his cleansing and restores him to the community. And now at the end of this great miracle, where do you find Jesus? He’s an outcast. He ends up, “in desolate places.”

Does that truth stir your soul? It about made me cry. We were that unclean. We needed healing. So a Healer came. The Holy and clean traded places with the canceled, unclean. All for love.

This is the gospel. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, we’re forgiven because he was forsaken. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Talk about trading places.

Jess’s words left me feeling unclean. They left me desperate for healing.

Which is just fine. Because I have a Healer who doesn’t stay away. He doesn’t simply overlook my sin-sickness. He conquers it and makes me clean.

Jesus comes with healing.

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.

You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Malachi 4:2

5 Truths for When Hearing No is Hard

For some of us, saying no is worse than 1,000 mosquito bites and a week of sleepless nights. I mean, saying no hurts!  We relational types hate to let others down. We hate to disappoint.

For others, it’s not saying no that’s so terrible-  it’s  hearing and taking no that hurts worse. Being rejected rates right up there with jumping in Lake Michigan in January and getting stung by angry bees in August. That bad.

This post is for those of us who are more undone when we hear no. No, your son can’t take that class- your dog is not allowed in here -you can’t take off Friday – I can’t watch your kids. No, we can’t make it.

No. Sorry. No. 

So Sorry

The first text read, Late meeting. So sorry I’ll have to miss tonight.

Then, I forgot it’s my son’s half-birthday. Sorry I’ll miss. 

And, Abigail, so sorry I can’t make it. It’s our anniversary.

That- more or less- is how the texts came in.

Grace had stretched me far but now it felt personal. Resentment was starting to grow. 

Because it’s hard to take no.

When We Are Rejected

So here we were. We three, then four, out of the dozen who’d been part of our little summer Psalms study.  Then two more texts.

Ab! Locked myself out of the car. Sorry to miss.  

And, Feeling drained. Think I’d better stay home. 

That was when that toxic cocktail of emotions started stirring again. The one that comes after the first twinge of rejection, the  resentment/self-pity mix. The Enemy tempts me with it when I feel like my efforts don’t matter or my labor is wasted.

Or, honestly, when my requests are denied and my invitations are rejected.  Simply put, when I’m told no. It’s ugly, I know.

But Christ Jesus died for this.

And he died for us, that we might die to sin. So we’ve got to preach to ourselves and stop emotions from driving the train. We’ve got to take ourselves in hand and get perspective.

Here are 5 ways I’ve been learning- learning- to take rejection and hear no with grace.

1. Remember Who else was rejected.

This gives me perspective: God Almighty was rejected- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

Remember that parable of the guy who threw the big party and invited many guests? At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  

Remember the excuses? They’re in Luke 14.

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

Talk about rejection! Those texts messages are miniscule, not worth comparing- even after I reserved the room and sent the invites and spent a couple hours prepping the study guide. Small potatoes. Teeny-tiny, speck of dust potatoes are my little rejections compared with that rejection.

Those texts were just polite little no’s to a Wednesday night Bible study. The host of the real party is God the Father. (Also Matthew 22)

In Isaiah 53:3 the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, is described as despised and rejected. When He came to his own, his own received him not. He said, The Son of Man must suffer and be rejected.

The rejection theme extends to the third person of the Holy Trinity, too. When we reject what the Holy Spirit shows us, Scripture tells us that He is grieved.

2. Look past the NO to God’s ruling hand.

This one is big. It’s the perspective I want to have whenever I hear no.  And not just in retrospect, but line by line as the texts roll in. When people upset my plans, I want to be like a woman I read about named Janet.

Someone who knew her said,

She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (From The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, quoted In Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot)

When people say no and reject our requests, this too reveals God’s ruling hand. The half-birthday and the locked car and all of those texts were God’s ruling hand.

They upset my plan, but worked his all-things-work together-for-good better plan.

3. Do unto others, when they say no unto you.

When we are told no, the Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

When we have to say no, like I had to say no to my sister this afternoon, about watching my nieces and nephew tomorrow, I felt bad. I don’t like to disappoint. But Danielle understood. In fact, she sounded a lot like Janet.

Oh well, she said, I was on the fence about going to the party, anyway. 

She took my no with grace and made it easy to say no.

I need to do the same. I need to do unto others when they say no to me. Odds are they like saying no about as much as I like hearing no.

4. Be disillusioned, in a good way.

I know that sounds strange. Because disillusionment isn’t usually good. It’s the feeling of disappointment we get when we find out that something isn’t as good as we believed it to be. But we can be disillusioned with people in a healthy way.

Jesus shows us what that looks like in John 2, where it says that he did not commit himself to them…for He knew what was in man. 

In “The Discipline of Disillusionment,” Oswald Chambers explains,

The disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are…The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way — if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we allow ourselves to get disillusioned, we won’t demand every perfection or resent every rejection. We’ll be quick to remember others are frail and finite, with limited time and energy, too.

Being disillusioned is another of saying we don’t resent those who refuse or reject us. We take it with grace because we know that we all stumble in many ways. We don’t demand of others what they cannot give and we sit loose to our plans.

Good disillusionment means we aren’t devastated when our peeps say no. 

5. Keep sowing.

This last “tip” for taking no has been immensely helpful to me, especially when it comes to the rejection and no’s that come with Kingdom work.

In Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 the Teacher says,

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle; for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

This passage, I’m coming to see, is about holy boldness when we, to use Jesus’ own words, sow the seed of the Word.  Not everyone- maybe hardly anyone- will accept my invitations to a Bible study or Vacation Bible School or dinner or a walk. 

But we need to keep sowing and asking and inviting. Because we do not know what seeds will grow. But we will not reap if we do not sow.

Put something out there that God can bless.

We can be too cautious. We don’t want to be the farmer who watches and waits for perfect conditions and never plants or reaps. There’s always a chance that the seed will stay dry or blow away when you plant. Or that a storm will knock it all down the day before harvest. You never know.

But Ecclesiastes 11 is a warning to us, when we hear no and only a few people show and the ministry seems a bust.  It’s a warning to not stop sowing.

Phil Ryken explains:

Whenever we engage in kingdom enterprises we offer to the Holy Spirit something he can use to save peoples’ livesSome of us are so risk averse that we keep waiting to invest. That’s the picture we get in verses 3 and 4. The Preacher is asking us to invest in the Kingdom. If we want the blessing of it, we’ve got to exercise our faith and put something out that God can bless in return.

Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances. Don’t hold back in fear. Step out in faith. Not faith in your own efforts but faith that God can do it. But faith that God will take whatever you do and use it somehow for his glory. When it comes to kingdom work we should be venture capitalists willing to risk for the kingdom.

God is God and we are not. We don’t know God’s ways. We don’t know if our efforts will take and seeds of the Word will grow.  But, we do know that we will not reap if we do not sow.

Get out of the closet of the manageable.

Some of us fear rejection and hearing no so much says Sean Michael Lucas, that,

We cover ourselves up and lock ourselves into the closet of the manageable…The things we can manage are in that closet. We believe that’s the only way we can protect ourselves.

And it just so happens that the Psalm our little remnant studied Wednesday night was Psalm 121, the one that starts with, I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?  

The Psalm ends with an immense, security-building promise for God’s children. Not only is He present and powerful, God promises to guard and watch over you. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

Keep on risking to the glory of God.

And, says Sean Michael Lucas, this means something powerful. It means that,

You can risk yourself to the glory of God. You can live dangerously for God, because God will watch over your life.  He will watch over your very soul. He will protect you and guide you and bless you and guard you all your days.

God promises to care for us and to guard our very souls from this time forth and forevermore. This means we’re free to request and invite and love others in risky ways, because the LORD will keep us.

So we give him something to work with and trust Him to get it done.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9