There was a time in Elementary School when I felt like the least, the last, and the lost. The cool kids’ table had no seat for me. I felt the sting of being at the bottom of the popularity heap. While I was never terribly bullied or completely left out, my low position on the social strata of my school left me wanting inclusion and acceptance.
I experienced some bullying when I grew way too quickly and towered over everyone in the third grade, including the teacher. Because children tend to reject what is not normal, my height (5’6” in the third grade) resulted in my being called names. The one that brought the most hurt was “Jolly Green Giant”. This was yelled at me the Monday I proudly wore a brand new green fur jacket that we had purchased at the Berlin Auction over the weekend. I loved this jacket, and was relieved that it actually fit. It replaced a jacket I had definitely grown out of. But the name calling was too much, and so on Tuesday, I wore the four-sizes-too-small coat to school. Or tried to.
My mother, wise and wonderful, asked me why I didn’t want to wear the new green one. I hesitated to tell her about the name calling, so I tried to pass it off as a problem of the new jacket being uncomfortable and not warm enough. (Winter in New Jersey can be frigid, and we had to walk to school. Uphill. Both ways.) She wasn’t buying it.
I can still remember her words to me that morning. She reminded me of how much I loved the jacket, told me that it fit well, and said that if I gave into the pressure of capitulating to the name callers, I would never overcome them. But if I wore my jacket proudly and ignored them, they would eventually stop.
I wore the jacket and she was right. Only one kid persisted in yelling, “Hey Jolly Green Giant!” at me for a few more days, and I heard my mother’s strength coming out of my mouth as I yelled back, “Well, at least I’m JOLLY!”
Yes, I was sassy at a young age.
I learned an important lesson about rejection that day: we fear rejection because we want to be accepted by those around us. But we should never, never, let anyone’s opinion dictate our self-esteem and feelings of self worth.
I heard a remarkable sermon about a woman who also felt left out. She was the lowest gal on the totem pole of life, rejected by society and worse, rejected by Jesus. I have to say that this passage has always bothered the heck out of me. Until now.
In the 7th Chapter of Mark we meet a Syrophoenician woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon. She comes to Jesus and asks him to cast the demon out. He tells her, “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” She boldly replies, “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
The pastor explained two key understandings:
1. The Canaanite culture the woman belonged to were Satan worshippers; this is how the child was possessed.
2. The word “dogs” in its original translation is understood as “puppies”, and therefore they were understood as members of the family…but not the status of children.
So instead of rejecting the woman, Jesus is telling her that her choice to follow Satan was an impediment to her request. By worshipping Satan, she rejected God, yet Jesus included her. He saw her outside of the community, and he felt her sense of rejection. He then granted her request and healed her daughter.
NOBODY is outside of Jesus’ worldview. Nobody is separated from him, unless they choose to separate themselves and remain separated.
Hurt and rejection are things that the world gives us. But in Christ, we are known and cherished. There may be a time in your life, past, present, or yet to come, where you feel left out and unwanted. Know that the Savior of your life sees you, wants you, and accepts you as you are.
Photo by Kathy Weeks.