I was at my local supermarket recently, the one where every time I’m there I end up chatting to people I know, sometimes in the isles and sometimes in the checkout lines. It’s always a pleasant experience.
Except for this one time.
Everything was normal this day, a quick trip for cat food, milk, a few essentials. Nothing abnormal. Swipe my card, enter my pin number, press enter, and start leaving.
‘I’m sorry sir, it says … declined.’
Why couldn’t she say it in a hushed tone? Why did she have to emphasise the word ‘declined in a manner that seemed unreasonable?’
For a moment the whole supermarket stopped, the music was hushed, everyone looked at me, and the three people who knew me judged me for being a poor manager of my money.
That’s what it felt like anyway.
It wasn’t so public, but recently I also needed to arrange some bridging finance in between selling one property and buying another. It wasn’t a big deal; I’d been a loyal customer of this one bank for 20+ years, never missed a beat, I’m a former bank manager after all, I have high integrity, I’m a good manager of my money.
So I thought.
Here in New Zealand there’s been a few changes within the statutory regulations that banks operate under, and for a period of time banks almost closed down their lending.
‘I’m sorry Mr Harris, your application is declined.’
While not as public as the supermarket experience, nonetheless an email with that word did not sit well in my inbox.
Rejection - How does it make you feel?
When I was younger I incurred a few emotional injuries at the hands, and voices, of others. Mostly unintentional I’m sure, but feelings of rejection plagued me into my early adult years.
Feeling that you’re not good enough results in low self-esteem and there’s no shortage of people who fall under this illusion. Maybe that’s you?
A low view of ourselves affects our relationships, it affects intimacy, it affects our view of God, it affects how we perform at work, it affects a lot of life. Mostly it affects our inner-self and brings turmoil to our emotions. It can be a silent battle that no one sees, although a negative view of ourselves can outwork itself out in multiple visible forms, from addictions of many kinds to self-harm, and more often than we choose to admit, to suicide.
When I heard the word, declined, in two instances in short succession, the wounds in my heart that had mostly been healed were slightly reawakened. That’s the thing about wounds, they might heal, but scars remain and when touched, we have a reminder that we once carried injuries and pain.
Declined is not in God’s vocabulary
My earlier-in-life battles with low self-esteem and personal insecurity lasted longer than they should have. I was raised in a Christian home where love and grace were actively at play. My local church was typical of local churches, full of good people saying nice things about a good God who sent His only Son and, well, you know the rest of the story.
Like many people though, I chose not to personalise all the things people had faithfully taught me over many years. I chose not to allow the Spirit of God to override the injections of negativity that physical people put into my heart.
But declined is not part of God’s vocabulary. It’s a not a word you’ll hear Him say to anyone in this world. The oft-repeated phrases that people say to us aren’t the phrases that come from the heart of the Father. We are never declined, we are never not good enough, we are never inferior, we never fall short of being … amazing.
At a certain point in my life, I had to stop listening to the voices of this world. I had to start listening to the voice of voices, the voice of the Creator of voice.
We all have the ability to listen to that voice.
The voice of God says that we are approved; that we are accepted, that we are valued, that we belong, that we are created in the image of God himself to enjoy the life that He has given us, and to enjoy it more than just being getting by, but to enjoy it to the fullest, which means knowing who we are as sons and daughters of God.
As we come out of the last two years of the season that will be known as COVID-19, there is still a lot of inner-turmoil going on for a lot of people. Life is not normal, and it may never be the way we once imagined it was (it was never perfect by the way, we always look backwards with rose-tinted glasses).
Knowing that we are approved, knowing that we have purpose, knowing that God is with us, provides us with a stability on which we can build our lives. Let’s not let the negativity of struggling economies and rising interest rates lead us into thinking that life is hard. It might have its physical challenges, but the best it yet to come.
By the way, my decline in the supermarket was just because I entered the wrong pin number. A small correction and I was approved and on my way. What a great analogy for life!
The cat was relieved.
Grant Harris is a reformed banker who has been the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for eleven years. Grant’s passionate about seeing people catch a glimpse of who they are in Christ and living out the difference that makes. He’s tried living according to the patterns of this world and found that those patterns came up short. He’s still a work-in-progress and always will be. You can contact Grant at email@example.com.