I know very well what rejection feels like. I probably have more experience being rejected than any other kind of experience.
I grew up in a family where education was not valued. I always thought and believed my desire for an education came from God. My mother was the only family member that encouraged and supported me in my educational endeavors. I certainly did not receive any encouragement to pursue higher education from other family, friends, K-12 school personnel, the ministers or people in the churches in which I grew up, etc. In fact, I was rejected by my extended family because of attending college and pursuing an education.
When I was in undergraduate school, I worked in a factory to support my mother and myself. I certainly did not receive any encouragement or support from co-workers to pursue a higher education. Instead, I was on the receiving end of many negative comments such as “You do not need a college education to work in a factory and change baby diapers,” that education was a waste of time and money, etc. My desire to improve myself and have a better life than my parents was rejected and I felt rejected.
My father never wanted or accepted me, his only child. He even tried to force my mother to have an abortion in 1954 when she was pregnant with me and abortions were illegal. He never wanted me to attend school, not even the first grade, but wanted me in the fields picking cotton. He wanted me to drop out of school and go to work in the mill when I was in my early teens. The only way my mother was able to send me to public school was because of compulsory school attendance laws. When my mother’s health declined, my father left her for another woman and discontinued to have contact with me. Therefore, I was completely rejected by my father.
Because of my parent’s separation and divorce, the churches where my mother and I were members treated us worse than if we were dogs. We felt unwelcome, unwanted, and unaccepted in the churches where we had been members in good standing. We were unable to attend church for over ten years-the years when my mother and I most needed to be involved with a church, have a church family, and have church friends. In short, the churches where we were members totally rejected us.
We tried to attend other churches but again the reception we received in the churches was very cold and frosty. We felt most unwelcome. As my mother’s health continued to decline and she approached death, I know she must have been very distressed that she was unable to attend church and that we did not have a church family or pastor to minister to our needs. Only a few months before mother died, was I able to find a church that I could attend. Mother was never able to go to church there with me. In fact, the last time mother and I attended a church together was when we were out-of-town about ten years before her death. My mother and I both felt terribly rejected by the churches in the small town where we lived.
Our dreams had been to move to a larger city in hopes that we could find a church where we could love, serve, and worship God. We thought things might be different if only we could move to a larger city and attend church where perhaps people were not so narrow minded and closed-minded. That dream would never materialize for my mother as she died shortly after I found a job in a larger city and before we could move. That dream also turned out to be a nightmare for me as the first church I joined after leaving the small town in which I grew up never accepted me either. I still do not understand why this church rejected me.
I joined another church that was even larger. When I found myself working for an atheist and devil worshiper who hassled and harassed me on a daily basis because of my being a Christian, my Christian morals, values, ethics, and integrity, I turned to the only place I knew to turn-the church where I was a member. After all, I did not have any family to turn to in times of trouble or need; I was unmarried, childless, an only child, and at that time had no friends in the city where I live. I also preferred not to file a lawsuit against the employer that was rejecting me. Therefore, I called my church in tears asking to speak to a minister. I was sternly told that the ministers did not provide any kind of pastoral counseling to any church member. I was shocked since this was a very large church with several pastors and ministers on staff. I had not even stated the nature of my problems, only that I was a church member and needed to speak with a pastor. The church had no way of knowing whether I had been diagnosed with a terminal illness or was suicidal or just what the problem might be. The bottom line was that the church did not care. I felt totally and completely rejected by still another church. I wondered how much more I could take. After all, it was almost as if God was rejecting me every time the churches rejected me.
I walked out of that church and denomination and felt I would never be able to attend any church ever again. It just hurt too much to be rejected by churches. I knew I could never go back to any church in that denomination ever again. Why should I even try? After all, my mother and I had been totally and completely rejected time after time from church after church in that denomination for no reason at all and through no fault of our own. We had been lifelong members of that denomination. It was very difficult and painful to walk away from the only denomination I had ever known but I just did not feel like I had a choice. We had abided by the dictates of the church and denomination about what we could and could not do. Although the denomination and churches preached salvation through faith by grace, this was not always the practice. There were very strict and specific rules pertaining to what church members could and could not do. The sermons were of the hellfire and brimstone type that if a person committed any mistake whatsoever that they would end up in hell. Yet, no matter how hard my mother and I tried to live by the church rules, we were never accepted in those churches in that denomination. I now know that regardless of how good a life my mother and I lived, we would never be good enough to be accepted in those churches in that denomination and realize that did they not practice what they preached.
I know that of all the different kinds of rejections I have experienced in my lifetime-rejection by my father, friends, family, employers-being constantly rejected by the churches and denomination in which I grew up was the worst and most painful rejection of all. As I said above, it was as if God was rejecting me each time the churches rejected me.
It was only by the grace of God and because I had a wonderful Christian mother who instilled in me a love for Christ that I was able to find my way into another church in another denomination. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have found a church where I belong, feel welcome, and accepted and I now have friends in the city where I live. However, when I joined the church where I am now a member, lifelong friends also rejected me for leaving the church and denomination in which I grew up. These friends knew how my mother and I had been mistreated, rejected, and deeply hurt by the churches and the denomination in which we had been members. They also knew what I was going through at my place of employment working for an atheist and devil worshiper. Yet, they still rejected me for joining another church in another denomination. I was even told that I had joined a cult church. (The church I joined was a Lutheran church in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) synod-definitely not a cult church.)
My friends’ rejection made me feel like I had to defend my faith, convince my friends that I was still a Christian, that I had not rejected God, the Bible, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit-only the churches and denominations in which I grew up. I shared with my friends material pertaining to the Lutheran church and other mainline Protestant denominations, yet I still do not feel like they accept me as a Christian or believe that I am a Christian. Although it has been almost four years, the pain of rejection by friends for leaving the church and denomination in which I grew up is still very real and still hurts very deeply. If they had not known what I was going through and how the churches had mistreated my mother and me, perhaps their response would have been easier to understand, but they knew. My friends also had families of their own, plus extended families, so they had someone to turn to in time of trouble and they had never been driven from any church to know or understand the pain of rejection by a church. Sometimes well meaning Christians who fail to think about how their remarks may be perceived, can make unkind, uncaring remarks that extremely hurt and deeply wound someone who is already hurting and vulnerable.
Being rejected by the churches and denomination in which I grew up is probably the worst and most painful experience I have ever had. It was even more painful than losing my mother. At least when my mother died, I knew she was out of her pain and suffering and had gone to a better place. When churches reject anyone for any reason, it can feel like God is rejecting you too. Churches and Christians should to be very careful how they treat or mistreat others in the name of Christ and Christianity. While people in the church who profess Christianity may do what they do in the name of love, those on the receiving end of their comments and behavior can perceive and feel it to be anything but love, especially if they are already hurting, wounded, alone, and vulnerable. The attitudes and behavior of some Christians in the church can drive others Christians out of the church and sometimes even away from God altogether and also leave them afraid of having anything to do with organized religion ever again. It is a bad reflection on professing Christians when they come across as mean, cruel, unkind, uncaring, unthinking, and unfeeling. Those on the receiving end could even perceive the professing Christian as being very unchristian.
Lifelong educator Kathy S. Quinn earned an M.Ed. and Ed.D. from the University of South Carolina, an M.S. from the University of Maryland and an M.A. from Webster University. She is an associate professor of business administration at Allen University in Columbia, S.C.