Rejection

Last week I was listening to a man talk about rejection. His name is Jia Jiang. He has a blog where he documents putting himself through what he calls 100 days of rejection therapy to try to inoculate himself against the pain and disappointment of rejection. As part of his talk, he told us J.K. Rowling was rejected by all 14 publishers she submitted her first Harry Potter manuscript to. All 14! He explained the only reason she got picked up was because one of the publisher’s grandkids started reading the manuscript and couldn’t put it down.

His point: rejection happens to everyone. Don’t fear it. Expect it. Don’t take it personally. “Rejection is really nothing more than peoples’ preferences and opinions and yet we take them as some sort of personal indictment,” Jia told us.

And of course he’s right.

Until it happens to you. And then all of the truth and nice sayings disappear under the soul-crushing disappointment.

If you didn’t already know it, I’m nearing the final stages of a years-long process of writing a book.

I wrote a book of fiction because I believe in story, and because the market is already saturated with evangelical non-fiction work. I wrote a book because I was fed up with preachy and unimaginative Christian art. I wrote a book as a tribute to my best friend, who was murdered at age 18. I wrote a book to help people going through devastating loss. I wrote a book that poses the question, “what if you could get rid of your most painful memory?”

It’s a story. And I believe in it. I believe it has the chance to help people in the way only story can.

Part of this process requires asking for help. I have hundreds of amazing people in my life who care about me and believe in me. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for every single one of them. Unfortunately, none of them are literary agents.

So I’m in need of help.

Recently, I asked a well-known writer and blogger, whom I helped several years ago when he was releasing his first book, to use his considerable knowledge and influence to help me.

He graciously and politely declined, offering some positive feedback and encouragement in the process.

I expected this result, absolutely knew it was coming.

I thought I was prepared for it.

And yet it crushed me. Kind of like this:

Even though he told me he had read a couple of chapters and felt my writing was strong, and despite the fact that earlier in the day I had received an encouraging email from my father about my writing that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life, I stood in the shower and fought to hold back tears. Rejection was all I could see.

I managed to make it through the shower without falling apart. Then I got out and made the following mental list…

People who are the worst at handling rejection, all time: 

2b. Marty McFly

2a. George McFly

1. Me

I’m terrible at it. Doesn’t matter how many positive comments and feedback I get. Doesn’t matter how many people express their belief in me. Doesn’t matter that it’s not rational or that my conclusions about the rejection are not remotely based in reality. I’ll hold onto the rejection and believe what I think it’s saying about me.

Every time.

I bet I’m not the only one who does this. I bet there are many others in this neurotic club I lead.

But I have hope.

Because I’m part of a tribe of faith who follow a savior and leader who was rejected by His own people, and continues to be rejected by large portions of humanity.

Because there has to be a reason I heard Jia Jiang talk about rejection last week.

Because I also happen to top another list..

Most stubborn creatures, all time:

2b. Politicians

2a. Mules

1. Me

I won’t give up. I’ll feel the pain, collect those rejection letters, and keep fighting to get my story heard. And one day I’ll use that collection of rejection letters as kindling for the bonfire celebrating my breakthrough.

Because J.K. Rowling eventually got her book published.

And so did George McFly.

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If I only leave one thing behind…

If I only leave one thing behind – for my children, my grandchildren, all of my people now, and all those who ever hear my name in distance times – may it be a story. A story of a messy life, clouded with sorrow and uncertainty. A life like a wild and over-grown garden, where seeds of hope were planted. Seeds of the Gospel, seeds of mystery,  seeds of faith and of love. Seeds that miraculously took root, watered by community, warmed and called forth by the brilliance of the Son, breaking the surface of the dirt…

And blossoming into joy.

Joy so overwhelming and beautiful it would make their heart ache to know of it, wishing one day to experience it for themselves, and wanting it so badly they would begin to plant seeds of their own. The ancient process would continue. And Joy would grow stronger, higher, and more resplendent throughout the ages.

Always stretching toward the Son.

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unknown kiss

He lay suspended between two worlds. In foggy space between consciousness and unconsciousness, between sleep and awake. Something is happening, barely perceptible, almost tangible, still undefinable.

Contact.

What is it? The soft impression of two tiny lips on his cheek. The familiar, soft click sound of a kiss. Little hands on his shoulders for support. Love emanating white hot from a simple, anonymous gesture. From the tender mouth of a child to the rough face of a father. Yes, something is happening. Is it real, or just a dream? Shaking off the clutches of a nap like a dog shaking off water, eyes remaining closed, still groggy, but the experience becomes more clear. Yes, finally a conscious understanding of what has taken place…

My daughter approached me and kissed me on the cheek while I was sleeping on the oversized chair in the TV room.

The act may be seem insignificant, small, unworthy of mention. Maybe. But maybe it’s something more. Perhaps something much more.

A kiss on the cheek of a sleeping person may be one of the truest expressions of affection for another human being.

I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The cheek kiss is often relegated as the “friend” kiss, the passionless gesture, completely devoid of feeling.

But I disagree.

There are nights when I don’t get home from work until after my daughter has fallen asleep. I don’t like these nights. Not at all. No reading. No silliness. No snuggling. But I always go into her room, make sure she’s comfortable, check to make sure her breathing passages are clear (she’s nine, and I’m still doing this?), and then I lean down, ever so quietly. Careful to keep my balance, slowly moving towards her perfect little face.

The rough impression of two lips on her cheek. The familiar, soft click sound of a kiss. Grown hands bracing on either side of her for support. Love emanating white hot from a simple, anonymous gesture. From the chapped lips of a father to the soft cheek of a child. The moment is…

Perfect.

What makes it so perfect is the anonymity of it all. I spend so much time, consciously or subconsciously, attempting to get people to notice my acts of love for them. It’s shameful, I know.  But we all do this, whether we admit it or not. So many of our loving acts appear selfless, when, in fact, they are not. Not really. But this act, this unknown kiss, is pure, raw, unbridled affection. It is love expressed, but undetected. She doesn’t notice, nobody notices. But I cannot help myself. I love her so much, so deeply, I must kiss her face.

There are times in all of our lives where it is natural, and necessary, to show people how much we care. And then there are times within the bonds of a mutual relationship where we must give love anonymously, undetected, with no awareness on the part of the one receiving  it. And it’s in these times when we know for sure our love is pure, right, true, and good. When we express love in such a way that we cannot receive any attention or reciprocation, we find out where our heart really is. And we know we are capable of caring for someone in the deepest way, in the way only mothers, fathers, and lovers know.

If there’s a sleeping child in your house tonight, thank God above you have the privilege of loving and leading and nurturing such a precious gift. Then sneak in and give them a kiss on the cheek, being careful not to wake them. Then you will experience the sweet manifestation of affection in its purest form.

Then, you will know.

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