Sometimes you have days, weeks, months (even years?) when you feel like an outsider, as if you woke up in a strange place and didn’t belong anymore. It passes. But when those periods of time last too long, doubts start to creep in. You wonder if you’re on the right road, if you’re making the right decisions, if your life is turning out as it should. As I think about all of this, I am reminded of some “handles” that I often grab hold of to keep me steady when I’m feeling so uncertain about everything.
Do you remember the book, play and then film, Les Miserables? There’s a great song in the play sung by the lead character who has been redeemed to start a brand new life. But he’s dogged by shadows from his past who want to remind him of his guilt and drag him back.
Who am I?
Can I condemn this man to slavery
Pretend I do not feel his agony
This innocent who bears my face
Who goes to judgement in my place
Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I’m not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on
Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!
I had a great friend who used to remind me of this scripture: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. – Romans 8:1-2
What a wonderful truth to repeat over and over again. Especially when the road is lonely, dark and you begin to doubt. One thing that I don’t have to fear is any punishment from God because of all my mistakes. I’m not on the outside of God’s forgiveness.
Remind yourself again and again that you’re free. Forever free.
Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
I’m always inspired when I read Henri Nouwen. He keeps my mind and spirit from wandering off into the brush. When you feel like an outsider within your world, and sometimes it’s not your imagination you really are on the outside, it always helps to keep this truth clearly in front of you: See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! – I John 3:1
No matter how much rejection you feel (real or imagined), you’re never going to be rejected by your Heavenly Father. You’re his child forever.
Today you may be on a dark and lonely part of your journey. It may last a long time. But what’s also true is that you are free and you are God’s child. These truths are a part of your identity now and no one can steal them from you. Another great friend gave me a third great handle, endure…