“You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (Jesus) John 15:16
“Think of a time when you felt overlooked or rejected,” writes Michele Cushatt in her thought-provoking devotional, “I Am.”
No sooner had I finished reading those words than an image leaped into my mind.
Eighth grade. Honor society assembly. A group of teachers and students sat proudly on the stage, watching people walking around the rest of us, tapping out the ones selected to join.
And I was not.
It was the worst moment of the worst time of my life.
Thanks to my school’s misguided decision to launch dating dances in 7th grade, I had quickly and painfully learned I would never be the popular girl, the one voted Queen of the May. Though athleticism wasn’t valued in females when I was young, I didn’t have any of that, either. Besides, I was being bullied by three “mean girls” who made my life daily misery. And, like most kids of that age, my hormones were going crazy, leaving me a physical and emotional mess. I remember my mother saying, “Is there ever a (calm, normal) middle ground with you?”
But those common junior high traumas were not all I suffered. I carried a dark secret in that “Father Knows Best” era: my family life was in chaos. My father was at the peak of his alcoholic addiction—a problem which made him range and rant around the house all night, while my mother tried in vain to calm him down. I cowered under the covers, frightened and helpless, wondering what was wrong with us, thinking we were the only ones who lived that way. I was deeply ashamed, terrified someone would find out. Then my beloved grandmother, who was my anchor in the storm, died.
But at least, I had the classroom. There, I was the star. I might have been picked last when the recess softball teams were chosen, but everyone wanted me when it was time for spelling. My hand was always in the air, as I cried, “Teacher! Teacher!” shouting out the answer when she didn’t call on me. My report cards boasted all A’s. Always.
Now, even that had been taken from me. I could hardly believe it. Why didn’t I make it? What hadn’t I done? What had I done wrong? I was never told.
Sixty-four years later, I still feel the pain. Looking at the logo right now makes me cringe.
Writer John Eldredge speaks of “arrows to the heart”—wounds that go to the very center of our being, destroying our confidence, our trust, our understanding of who we are. That’s what this awful moment was to me.
Cushatt writes, “Our great rejection becomes a demarcation point, after which something changes within. …We assume we aren’t good enough, smart enough, worthy enough for the choosing.” I would add, we never completely trust our value again. In the back of my head lurks a little voice which says, “If they really knew who I was, they’d reject me.”
That’s why Jesus’ words here are such balm. The Lord of the Universe has chosen us: you and me! And not only that. Paul writes in Ephesians that we were chosen “…before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (1:4)
“Have more beautiful words ever been spoken?” writes Cushatt. “We, with our many physical limitations and emotional flaws. We, with our long string of human rejections that’s left us bristling and afraid. God looks at our bruised, less-than selves and sees someone worthy of love. …(He says:) Her. The second from the right. I want her. With me.”
The One Who knows us better and more deeply than any one else loves us, now and forever. He promises never, ever to fail or forsake us. (See Hebrews 13:5) He has chosen us—yes, you, yes, me–to belong to His eternal Honor Society: the only one which matters.
Selah. Pause and let that amazing truth sink in.