This story was recently shared as part of a blog series by Pamela Henkelman (https://www.pamelahenkelman.com/blog/refining-stories-lessons-from-the-sting-of-rejection), and I thought I’d share it with you all as well. It was such a good and therapeutic process…this process of writing the story down. Sometimes we can’t see the good from something hard until we have retraced our steps over time. This retracing was good for my soul. Be sure to tune into the rest of Pamela’s series for wisdom in navigating seasons of refinement.
AND, I’m excited to share one of the songs that flowed out of this season. “Call Me In” was a song of healing and direction for me, and maybe it could be for you as well.
My pulse raced with excitement as I walked into the sanctuary for the congregational meeting. Nerves were present, but it was mostly an alive sort of feeling. This vote could set me on the course of something I felt driven and called to do! This was forever going to change the trajectory of my life, my career and my faith! I just hadn’t imagined how much it would.
A couple months prior to that moment, I had found myself spending almost all of my free time serving as a worship leader and a youth leader for a little church in my town. Was I officially trained for any of that? Nope. Civil engineering was my full-time day job. Music was just a hobby, and teenagers were honestly kind of a mystery. However, music was what made my heart come alive and was what I could spend hours doing without fatigue.
The youth of that little church made up the band, so I naturally spent a lot of time with them. They were wonderful kids and fantastic worship leaders, and we even got invited to lead worship around the state for other churches. Our pastor was even our drummer. Yes, we were cool.
I’d like to think it was the Holy Spirit who first whispered the idea of making this passion into a job. I remember telling our pastor and his lovely wife about my idea, and honestly, I can’t recall their first reactions. I wish I could. What I doremember is entering into a series of meetings about the idea. I met with the elders. I sat in a couple open forum meetings, which anyone from the congregation could attend. These meetings were to lead up to a congregational vote to determine my fate.
The content of those conversations has stuck with me. What strikes me about this is that I can hardly remember what was said to me yesterdaylet alone 12 years ago when this all happened. Something burned into my memory. Something stuck and hasn’t let go. Conversations laced with conviction and rejection burn. They burn into memory unlike anything else. Not every moment of those meetings was hard, but somehow the conviction and rejection became lodged into my brain, like a thorn too deep to pull out.
But I pushed past it all. I was so in love with the idea of working for this congregation. I actually warned my boss, saying I would be putting in my two-weeks notice after the vote went through. In my enthusiasm, I made plans to work part-time for a local firm to fill in the hours I wouldn’t be at the church. I even purchased a piece of art to hang on the wall of the little office I anticipated having there.Confidence was outweighing anything anyone was saying about me, about my style of music, and about the church’s need for my position.
The day of the vote came, and my husband and I walked to the front of the sanctuary and sat down. There was time for discussion prior to the vote, all of which I was present for. A last minute sway from a respected long-time member, and the treasurer at the time, seemed to shock the group. I sat still and faced forward. I raised my hand to vote yes. I felt my husband do the same. I didn’t turn around to see who voted no. I truly shouldn’t have even been in that room. Why was I there for that?
The vote lost by 2 people. That was enough to seal it. I had been publicly rejected. Some people left quickly, and some stayed behind and cried before me. I didn’t cry. Not until later. I actually didn’t cry until the next Sunday morning. Our pastor was out of town for the service, and one of our lay ministers was in charge. Everyone seemed to turn to me that morning with questions, for help in figuring out what to do, how to proceed. They sure acted like they needed me. But hadn’t they just rejected me? How could that be?
We went home after the service and I vividly remember telling my husband that I didn’t want to go back to that little church. It wasn’t because I wanted them to miss me, but because I was truly hurting. I didn’t even want to touch my piano after that. I didn’t want to sing. I went back to work and repaired things with my boss so I could continue working. Two-weeks notice? Just kidding. I was so confused. Hadn’t I heard the Spirit’s call? Wasn’t I walking forward into something good, something I had been passionate about?
Sometimes God uses a season of rejection – not to refuse us, but to refine us.
I was forever changed by that experience. I learned that some relationships are only surface deep, and that words hold weight. I still love many of the people from that little church, and often grieve that things didn’t work out. The words spoken there, the ones that stuck, are a constant reminder for me to always be kind. “Sticks and stones” aren’t the only things that can hurt. Even if I disagree about something going on, God has shown me the power of extending grace in every situation.
I learned that desires planted in our hearts are not necessarily bad, but the timing might be wrong. God’s timing doesn’t always (or ever for that matter) line up with our own. Is the dream to make music into a job still my desire? Yes, but I’m learning to be patient. Since that day, God has brought me into something better than I could have imagined. I’m now connected with a church family and ministry that continually grows and increases my love of God, of worship, and of leading others in praise. I am thankful beyond words.
I also learned the value of serving where and when I’m needed. The faithfulness of showing up and serving when asked brings a peace that can only come through following God’s lead. In hindsight, I feel like I was trying to force that staff position to happen. I wasn’t willing to just show up and serve. That wasn’t where my heart should have been. I wasn’t serving the Lord. I was serving myself.
That experience revealed a need for maturity I didn’t know I needed. God has since shepherded me into a richer understanding of my area of service. I sing for an audience of one. I play and write to honor the God who gave me these gifts. I wasn’t rejected by Him. And now I can say without hesitation that I wasn’t truly rejected by anyone. I was just redirected for a little refinement.
P.S. A desire to reconnect with God and my purpose took me back to my piano bench almost 6 months later. And while it took a while for the words to pour out, some of the lyrics I meditated on through that season have become signposts of His faithfulness. Here is one song that came from that season of healing. Enjoy the music.