Over the course of my prayer ministry, I have noticed a thing or two about rejection and abandonment. Both are immensely painful, but the struggles that surround each differ somewhat. I have noticed that while rejection is a wound in the soul, abandonment is a wound of the spirit. As I look at Jesus’ road to Calvary, I find that He had to encounter both. However, while He endured rejection with a certain amount of stoicism, abandonment caused Him to cry out. He died immediately after.
I believe it is important to make distinctions between the two in part because healing from each of them takes different approaches. Soulish wounds are common and are often in the realm of what I call experiential knowledge. We get our feelings hurt and forgiveness or repentance help to heal the pain. Sometimes facing the injuries in our soul is a necessary growth experience. Facing our fears, learning to handle anger, and controlling our responses to emotional pain are an integral part of the maturing process.
Injuries of the spirit, however, are more difficult to locate and more difficult to heal. In order to fully explore this kind of injury, the nature of the spirit must be defined. Our spirits are our life source. When we die, our spirits leave our body. When we become born again, it happens in the arena of the spirit. God unplugs from our human power source and plugs into His power. It is in our spirits that we feel God’s presence and hear His voice. Injuries to our spirits can interrupt our ability to experience God fully, though not always.
Rejection is painful, no doubt. But to some degree, it is a necessary human experience. After all, if you take a stand for anything, pushback is inevitable. When we fear rejection, we run the danger of becoming people pleasers. Learning to handle disapproval as well as learning to stick to your guns when it comes to your beliefs is to progress on the highway of adulthood.
The issue that rejection dredges up is the fear that we aren’t good enough. And honestly, sometimes we are not. I belong to a workshop that regularly chops my writing into bits. I learn a tremendous amount from this, but it can sting, too. But more often than not, the criticism is well-directed. I know that this rejection is not personal, but that it is meant to constructively improve my writing. But in the course of my being a part of writing groups off and on for twenty years, rejection is the first hurdle a writer must face.
Not only do publishers regularly reject material for a variety of reasons, but to open yourself up to the criticism of others is to face your fear. I have turned in material that I thought was good enough. After the group has chewed it up and spit it out, I am left with the humbling notion that an MFA in Creative Writing does not exempt me from the same toils other writers face. And I am now responsible for making it better. I have seen so many good writers quit because the fear of rejection got to be too much.
Rejection is not the enemy. Critical parents, hard to please bosses, and fair-weather friends make up a good portion of our relational experiences, to name just a few. Surviving and growing from rejection, while never easy, is crucial to living out our destinies and callings.
Abandonment is more difficult to heal. Often confused with rejection, we try the same techniques we used to heal our sense of rejection, but to no avail. After all, enough experience with acceptance, some close relationships that involve deep and emotionally intimate love, and the sense of rejection often fades by itself.
Abandonment involves the refusal to see another person as a human. Emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse inflicts a sense of abandonment that brings with it a diminished will to live. My internal mantra while living with my ex-husband was I wish I was dead. I injured myself all the time. Not by self-harm, but by clumsiness. It was as if my body conspired against me. In reality, my spirit was losing the will to live.
I have a good friend whose mother abandoned her in a trash can as an infant. She was rescued and adopted and has been a faithful Christian her whole life. An activist in the baby box movement, Indiana now has a safe drop system for abandoned babies in large part because of her lobbying. And yet, her body betrays her on a regular basis. She suffers more injury than anyone I know and endures more pain than I can imagine. She is at war with her body and spirit.
Abuse causes spiritual harm because the message isn’t you aren’t good enough as it is in rejection, the message is you are trash. The other lie is you are utterly alone. I recently read an article by a psychologist who questioned whether severe child abuse can ever be recovered from. He had seen very few cases where the recovery from severe abuse left the victims functional. And on a purely mental or emotional level, recovery is not completely possible. At least, it wasn’t for me.
The good news here is really the good news of the gospel. I believe Jesus, in suffering the complete abandonment of the Father on the cross, participated in the redemption of our whole selves, body, soul, and spirit. I know this because my recovery from the severe emotional abuse was not merely a soulish journey, though it was that as well. After all, PTSD is a mental and physical disorder that requires treatment. But it is Jesus as the Life in my spirit that truly resurrected my spirit from despair.
I knew a change took place because my inner mantra changed. No longer did I have the words I wish I was dead echoing in my spirit. Instead, I find my spirit singing I have a river of life flowing out of me. I wake up with that song in my head. It pops up at random times. But the very presence of that song lets me know that I no longer wrestle with the spirit of abandonment. In the very deepest parts of me, I am not alone.
If you struggle with abandonment or know someone who does, focus your prayers on the healing and resurrection of the spirit. I remember a well-meaning Christian told me that I didn’t need to struggle with self-worth anymore because I wasn’t being abused now. But our spirits live outside of time which means that time, while a great healer sometimes, can’t touch these wounds. Only our Heavenly Father, the maker of time and of our spirits, can speak to the rocks of pain in our lives and get His living water to flow forth.
I found these books so helpful in restoring my spirit. I still read them out loud regularly.
Pregnant mamas! Your unborn baby’s spirits are alive and active. Read this to them and your children to grow their spirits.
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