I have a little history with rejection. When we were dating (and during our engagement), Miska tossed me to the curb. Twice. Both times, I more than deserved it, but the pavement hurt nonetheless. Once I was in a conversation with a highly respected literary agent, beginning a conversation about the possibility of his firm representing me. He asked how many readers I had on my site. “Well, I’m working on it,” I answered, “but maybe a couple thousand when it’s going well.”

“A day?” he asked.

“Uh, no, per month.”

The phone went silent. “Well…” the agent began, slowly. “Let me put this in context. One of my authors sometimes hits 100,000 per day.” There were a few short pleasantries to follow, but the conversation was effectively finished.

I’ve had religious leaders tell me I was no longer part of the fold (fair enough), and I’ve had an employer tell me they were eager to get rid of me (that stung a little). As of last month, all three of my books are now out of print, and while perhaps this is not exactly rejection – it does mean that readers have chosen to leave my blood, sweat and tears on the shelf. Anyone who wants to be a writer must have at least a twinge of masochism. The rejection pile will be tall; and there are days when the stack (and the voices the stack represents) looms so large you can’t see past it. We all have our stories. We all have to contend with the voices.

Of course, not all rejection is final. Sometimes it eventually works out well (Miska and I are working on 17 years), but sometimes a ‘no’ is truly a ‘no’ (the agent is not on my speed dial). Not all rejection is final, but all rejection levels a blow.

But rejection offers us a gift as well. For some of us, the conflict redirects our passions, showing us where we need to go – only we needed the push to make it happen. The employer who couldn’t wait for me to hit the door oversaw a corporation masquerading as a Christian ministry. I should never have been there. If I had lingered for the next few years, I would have died the death of a thousand cuts.

For some of us, the blow will stiffen our spine, put a fire in the belly. With Miska, I needed to step into my life with courage, and Miska provided the wake-up call. With writing, while I wince at every ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ the process eventually leads me back to the desk, back to the words. I return with a deeper hunger, a deeper commitment to the work I must do.

This is not finally about only your work but your life, about receiving all that comes, sorting through it, learning at every turn, discarding the junk and tenaciously trusting the good. Allow these encounters to guide you, not bury you.

Maybe what I most want to say is this: rejection does not define you. Every ‘no’ grants the opportunity to peer deep, to ask again what it is you really want to give yourself to. And then, whatever the answer, get to it.

25 Replies to “Rejection”

  1. Thank you for this. I hear you on rejection and how it can shape our paths. I’m so glad you didn’t give up on your wife! And glad you got out of that ministry that wasn’t a ministry. I think a few thousand visitors a month to your site is pretty amazing. To be honest I don’t know how you or even the authors with a 100,000 a day hits can stand it…That feels overwhelming to me…

    Thank you for this clear, concise, well written post.

  2. I’ve been working on finding an agent for a few months now. The rejection pile is getting tall. A friend sent this to me, and how timely it is! Thanks!

  3. I’ve only been reading your work for a couple of months–having stumbled upon your little nook in the web by linking from some long-forgotten other site–but I love your writing style: humble, gentle, nuanced. Keep writing for yourself, even if for no one else.

  4. Your books, Holy Curiosity and Restless Faith spoke straight to my soul and were a breath of fresh air that I desperately needed. So thank you for not quitting. Keep on keeping on!

  5. T.D. Jakes once said, “Thank you for rejecting me, because you showed me that I wasn’t supposed to be over here. I was supposed to be over there.” That puts it in perspective! Sorry about your books being out of print, but obviously, the words in those books touched at least one life, as evidenced above, which makes them entirely worth the effort. So many are encouraged and uplifted by your writing and are thankful that you will continue to share your words in various ways and venues.

    1. well, the publisher can only allow them to collect dust so long. Time to move on some new ones, at some point. Thanks, Elizabeth.

  6. Brother Winn…I’m pretty sure you have all ready read it but in case you missed Philip Yancey’s blog, ‘Farewell to the Golden Age,’ it’s an eye opener for us avid readers and you avid writers. Be blessed!
    C Shrieves

    1. Yes, there was all kinds of good cheer in Philip’s piece, huh? But good possibilities too. The words will not die.

  7. I work for the publisher that published Let God which continues to be one my favorites and is on my bedside table as I write this. Ironically it is the book I turned to when going through a rejection. And it is a book I recommend to friends. It may be out of print but the blessing will continue I am sure.

  8. What a gift your writing continues to be to me. Your vulnerability, grace, and unflinching honesty shine through your words, especially in this post. I have just managed to order a new copy of your first book, and I will watch for the day when I can place an order for your next book. Until then, I will continue to savor your words here. And I will continue to give thanks for the your ability to bring words and life together.

    1. well, gosh, you are immensely generous. Thank you for supporting the little work that happens here, and for being so kind to me.

  9. Winn, this was extremely timely post for me today. You continue to be a blessing, a pastor of words for me and they are always well placed. I recommended you to my Facebook peeps. Please don’t give up but this was about wisdom and that only comes in time when we appropriately sift the days of life. Stay close to the Father and listen for the Spirit’s voice in your heart and mind.

  10. At the end of your post, there is a “Like” button. I wish there was a “Love” button, because I love this post and I needed to hear it! I have let the rejection of others define me so often in the past, and I need to stop that. God doesn’t reject me, and I must hold on to that, and let THAT define me.

  11. I too love this post! Having suffered from far too many rejections in life that have done nothing to foster a good sense of self, I am slowly learning that God uses these painful experiences to refine me. And yes, it’s true, In nearly all of the situations the doors that were slammed, needed to be because I would have gone down far worse paths had they not. I just wish I was at the point in my walk with Him that I could wholeheartedly praise Him for the rejections that come. This too will take time. Thanks so much for your post Winn!

    1. It all takes time, I’m learning. Lots of time. Thankfully, in God’s World, we have all the time we need. Be well.

  12. a friend sent me your post: “thought you would appreciate this …” she wrote. it took four days before i was willing to click open.
    {rejection} i don’t even want to read about that word. i’ve sampled plenty this year and thank you kindly, but i’ll pass.
    however, this morning, i opened and read and was blessed. great piece and great perspective, winn.
    rejection, surely, is another means to God’s great refining of our rough edges … heck, our rough everything! and for a girl who grew up not facing much, i am now in my mid-life and quickly catching up on my quota. ouch.
    thanks for the reminder that there can be a hallelujah in this kind of hurt: He’s WORKING on me … in me … all over me. and that’s never a bad thing. uncomfortable and sometimes ugly, yes, but not bad.
    thank you.

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