by: Cris Corzine McCloskey
In this broken world, few of us escape the hurt of rejection. Whether the pain comes from a dysfunctional home, schoolyard bullying, or unrequited love, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us are bearing some scars. Since feeling rejected is a pain we find unbearable, we protect ourselves.
Pop quiz: Are you afraid of being hurt? Are you a people pleaser, scared people will leave you if you don’t keep them happy? Do you look for flaws in relationships so you can reject them before they reject you? Do you avoid emotional intimacy? Are you insecure? Hypersensitive to criticism? If you answered yes to one or more of these, you have rejection issues.
There is a reason rejection hurts so much. Studies have shown the brain reacts the same way to rejection as it does to physical pain. That’s why we get so stuck. Recently, someone told me she feels like a stray cat no one wants to let in. The animal reference reminded me of the story of the bummer lamb.
Sometimes, when a ewe gives birth to a lamb, she rejects it. She won’t allow it to nurse or accept it in any way. The rejected lambs are called “bummer lambs.” The rejection not only puts them on the path to starvation, but it also breaks their spirit.
Shepherds are on the lookout for these little lambs. A good shepherd will find the bummer lamb, place it close to his heart so it can hear his heartbeat, and takes it home. He bottle feeds it and keeps it warm. Throughout the days ahead, the shepherd will continue to carry the lamb close to his heart. He knows it needs nurturing, or it will die of a broken spirit. As the lamb rests near his heart, it learns the sound of his voice. It learns to trust him.
By the time it is ready to be released back into the flock, there is a new nobility to the little lamb. It no longer feels rejected. It feels special, and it holds it’s head high. It has been singled out by the shepherd. And when the shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” the bummer lambs are always the first that come running.
I am a bummer lamb. I know the sting of rejection from an alcoholic father who would not get sober to save his family. I have had betrayals in friendships and the pain of unrequited love. But I now know the love of the Good Shepherd.
The Bible says Jesus will leave the 99 to pursue 1 lost lamb. That’s what He did for this bummer lamb. When I finally stopped running, He picked me up and carried me close to His heart. And He rejoiced when He carried me home. I can’t tell you I’ve fully recovered from my scars of rejection, but I feel special, and I hold my head high. I feel loved in an extraordinary way by the Good Shepherd, and for me, that trumps the rejection of others.
I know there are a lot of bummer lambs out there. My professional practice is full of them. What is truly tragic, though, is how many Christians won’t allow the Good Shepherd to hold them close to His heart. They want just enough of Him to go to heaven but don’t want to get close enough to be nurtured to wholeness. Without the tending of the Good Shepherd, they are suffering from broken spirits. That is why the world is full of so many wounded Christians.
If this is you, I pray you will allow His love to be a salve for your rejection issues. You are precious to Him, and He longs to gather you close to His heart so you can learn the sound of His voice and feel the comfort of His heartbeat. Then, the rejection of the rest of the flock won’t seem such a big deal. And when the Good Shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” guess who will be leading the pack?