When I was a little girl, my dad shared some life-long wisdom with me. He told me, “What is meant for you will be for you.” He was referring to the times I auditioned, tried out, or went for something — cheerleading, a role in a play, a win on the track — but fell short of my goal. He assured me that not making it was okay because perhaps that particular thing wasn’t meant for me, that what was meant specifically for me would still be waiting, holding space for me. As a child, my dad’s wisdom softened the sting of all the rejections I would experience in life.
He taught me to see rejection not as a closed door but as a nudge in a more specific direction. In high school, when I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, I was disappointed. But my dad’s encouragement did not allow me to digest the missed mark as an indictment or judgment of my capability. Instead, I considered it as being invited to a moment, an event, or an opportunity of which I was not currently aware. I learned to see rejection as a force drawing me towards a space where I belonged. However, it’s not easy to dust off disappointment to focus on an invitation to an unknown.
As I grew up and matured in my understanding of God, I realized that my dad’s wisdom resonated with God’s character. Essentially, it is because of who God is, that I can confidently peer past disappointment to push toward discovering an opportunity that awaits me.
And what do I know about God?
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, wrote a letter of encouragement to the Israelites who were in exile. He shared with them God’s words: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Through Jeremiah, God revealed that the Israelites could trust He had a greater plan in place for them. And although their situation felt bleak, they could hold on to hope because He wanted them to flourish, not fail. I can’t count the number of times I have felt the devastation of rejection, but knowing that God wants me to thrive, not die on the vine, has inspired me to pick myself up and look for the promised plan.
Then, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul, wrote to the Christians in Rome who were facing persecution, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Similar to Jeremiah’s revelation of God, Paul was helping the early Christians understand that though they experienced adversity, God was their Ultimate Defender. They could trust in God’s authority, so much so that they could respond to hate with love! I think we can agree that returning love for hate is evidence of true trust in God’s intentions. I remember being devastated when a leader I admired believed lies about me and thus planned to thwart my progress. But God had put me on that particular path to thrive, so her plan to block my path failed. Despite her position and perceived power, God progressed and prospered me.
Over the years, I have experienced rejection in all types of ways. However, because of who God is, I have learned that each closed door ushers me towards doors designed to welcome me. Though I did not make the cheerleading squad in high school, I earned a spot on the school’s new flag team, where I grew as a creative and as a leader. I received rejection letters from three universities when I applied to their doctoral programs. However, I was available when I was extended an invitation to apply for a doctoral program in Curriculum and Instruction, where I experienced the most fulfilling study of my college tenure. And five years ago, I was told no when I asked a church leader to incorporate my racial healing curriculum into the small group study teaching rotations. Her no invited me to create and build an entire education platform online, which has now hosted numerous courses and thousands of learners — far greater than a few small groups.
I am extremely grateful that while I was young, my dad shared God’s truths with me: What is meant for me will be for me. I don’t have to worry about missing out on an opportunity or be anxious about someone taking something that “belongs” to me. I’ve learned to trust that God wants me to flourish and thrive and protects the plans He has for me. Therefore, I don’t have to take rejection personally. I don’t have to dedicate significant energy and time to figuring out how to recover. I simply get to rest in the hope that rejection invites me to a clearer, more focused direction towards that which has been designed and orchestrated specifically for me.
As you face rejections, closed doors, and “missed” opportunities, may you know that God has a plan for you, goes before you, and has your back.