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No. Not you. Not now.
"He was despised and rejected of men..."
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I was planning to write about something else this week, but that was before this week happened.
(Or as my youngest daughter would put it) “Bruh!”
What to do (and feel) when the answer is “No. Not you. Now now.”
Have you seen the movie Tick Tock…Boom! on Netflix? Here’s my favorite scene. It’s the moment just after the main character has had a successful reading of the play he’s spent years and years writing and rewriting (insert “rewriting” infinite times here). In other words, he’s finally made it!
And then his agent calls to talk about what’s next…
“You start writing the next one. And after you finish that one, you start on the next. And on and on. And that’s what it is to be a writer, honey.”
So hard. So relatable. So…sucky.
In those rare moments when I’m feeling strong enough to remember how often I’ve been told “no, not you, not now,” - the exact number is…lots. But the numbers aren’t really the important part. To quote Mr. Indiana Jones, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” In other words, it’s the memory of the pain that bites hardest. No way to sugarcoat it. Not being picked hurts. Whether it’s not getting the job you applied for, someone ending a relationship you thought was working, not being accepted to a school or picked for a part or a hundred other things, rejection never gets easier.
I once applied for a job that seemed perfect. The person I interviewed with (who was also the one making the hiring decision) basically told me in the interview that I was her first choice and that she would call to confirm her decision the next day. I was so excited! I could hardly sleep as I imagined how I would excel in my new job and what better pay and benefits would mean for our family. As promised, she called the next morning. But instead of offering me the job, she told me she’d chosen another applicant. As she hung up I stood in our driveway, trying to push back tears of anger and frustration. I think I’d been trying to find a new job for at least two years at that point and this opportunity had felt so right. And now…nothing.
Perhaps the only thing worse than being rejected is when it happens to someone you love. You want to comfort and assure them that there is a plan, that things will work out, that they are still good and worthy and deserving. All true. But you also understand they’re feeling a deep-soul pain that words of consolation can’t reach. And you know this because you’ve felt it yourself.
So…what does any of this have to do with Jesus?
Yes, the scriptures tell us He experienced rejection, and at a level we can’t understand. They teach, again and again, powerfully and poignantly, that He is, in addition to our Savior and Redeemer and Exemplar, Jesus the Empathetic One. He knows perfectly all that we have or will suffer “because he suffered it.” A sincere question here: Did He somehow experience all of our experiences or just what those experiences would feel like? I don’t know the answer, obviously. But it’s something I think about when I am told “no, not now, not you” or when someone I love hears those words.
Even more painful than being rejected for something we want is being rejected because of what we are. Jesus experienced this type of rejection from the beginning of His ministry up until His last mortal breath.
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”
1 Nephi 19:9
“The nails at Calvary did not glance off impenetrable wrists. Nephi wants us to understand that those weapons—and many others—found their marks in skin every bit as fleshy, fragile, and thin as ours; Christ’s searing pain raced across nerves and synapses with the same lancing speed with which pain arcs toward our brains. Nephi’s repetitive insistence that Christ did not merely pass through pain as an abstraction but suffered it in all its messy furor—just like we do—seems almost a calculated reaction against the idea of an unfeeling God.
“King Benjamin goes further still: “[Christ] shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish” (Mosiah 3:7). Here, the prophet king is at pains to assure we understand that Christ did not just suffer these things as deeply as we do, but much, much more deeply still.”
Tyler Johnson, Empathy and the Atonement
One of the ways that the devil attempted to discourage Jesus was by questioning His divinity. “If thou be the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3.) He does the same with us. When we begin to doubt who and Whose we are, discouragement invariably follows.
Did His Atonement include:
Being told you’re not wanted?
Being ignored when you are pleading for someone to really listen to you?
Inviting someone you love to grow together with you, being told “yes,” but then…nothing happens?
Not being accepted because of race, sexual orientation, disability, economic circumstances, etc?
Every other type or intensity of rejection that each and every one of us would ever experience.
I believe the answer is yes. Somehow, in a way impossible to understand, the Savior experienced everything for everyone. And why He did so matters almost as much as whether or not He suffered these things:
“That his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
“That he may know…how to succor his people.”
So, to those I love who have ever been told “no, not you, not now,” I’m sorry. Also, and so importantly, Jesus Christ knows the full weight and deep pain of your rejection. Let Him put His loving arms around you. Let Him console you and teach you how to use being rejected to become more loving, more patient, more empathetic—More like Him.