My divorce was a mutual rejection between me and the Catholic Church. Later that year, I hinted to my sister that I wanted a Bible for Christmas. She was surprised at my ‘request,’ because it was not common practice at that time, for us, as Catholics to read the Bible. She bought me something else for Christmas, and noticed my disappointment. Weeks later, on January 14th my sister presented me with a Bible and I was delighted. This unfamiliar book was always within arm’s reach, hardly opened, year after year yet, I wanted it in my presence. I felt secure knowing it was there. I still did not embrace the Bible, even though I had brought into my home, a selfless love unlike anything I had ever known. I remained semi-detached. There was an emotional disconnect but spiritually, I was intrigued. It seemed to be calling me by name but there was a fear of intimacy. In essence, I rejected it. But God was not finished with me yet.
Despite not being a member of any church in my adult life, until three years ago, I always prayed to God and asked Him to “Let me do something for Your glory.” I was baptized on October 26, 2014 at Grace Family Church. I wanted to make a public declaration of my walk with God as I experienced the gift and the love of the Holy Spirit. That was an experience of sweet surrender and I began to read and meditate on the word, the Holy Bible and was amazed by the truth, beauty and the power of God’s love. I am in constant awe of God’s love and how relevant His word is to my life, today. How many times have we heard that God has a sense of humor? Some of the tasks in my profession allow me to buy, select, read and review books yet the Bible was one book(s) which eluded me. Then I began to read it and discovered the Bible is an awesome living thing, I thought Genesis, Exodus, Numbers were the best books I had ever read. God had His hand on me. He was waiting on me to mature spiritually, so I could see the applications of the Bible to my life.
After my baptism, I attended Beautiful, the women’s group at my church. I showed up sporadically but at some point I discovered the experience of the word ‘faithfulness’ what a powerful word that is. That was a turning point for me. I began to participate whole heartedly and experienced several blessings and continued joy from my Lord. My experience with Jesus had become very intimate and rewarding. At the end of the Christmas break that semester, I knew what I was destined to do, to spread the gospel. I am laying myself bare. One Sunday, Pastor Dean preached a sermon entitled “Have you ever seen yourself as John the Baptist?” And I wept in my seat and cried for a week. I had been always afraid that I would be like John the Baptist, so I hid from God. Rejection! I rejected God’s call.
Yet, I am fearful and disappointed when I receive rejection of any kind - for a brief moment at least, since I had studied the transformation of man. I refuse to be a victim and as a result, I look for cause in the matter, to see what I could have done to avoid such. I take responsibility. Sometimes rejection can affect us terribly, because we live in the flesh. But when we remember who we are and we live in the spirit, rejection is a time for evaluation. According to Sharon Tubbs, one of the keynote speakers at our Fearless, Beautiful conference last week - “rejection is a time for redirection.” She gave us several nuggets to take away. Sharon added “know your worth - your position in Christ. - Live out your purpose. - Get an, I ain’t scared of you attitude” - knowing “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22 (NIV ) - “focus on pleasing God rather than pleasing man”- and “to press beyond rejection to our God given destiny.”
I continued edification with Beautiful our women’s group at church and I was inspired by the Bible to write a poem entitled, We are Beautiful (title changed to You May Applaud Now) in celebration of National Women’s History month. I wrote it with a lot of attitude and passion. The poem was well received and was published by Indiana Voice Journal, my first published work. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged when the editors at IVJ selected the poem as one of the finalists for the Pushcart Prize that year. I performed the poem at several events, even at a Sociology class where I worked when they discussed the topic of Gender. I continued my writing in the vein of celebrating life and human dignity.
I was encouraged by two professors who teach creative writing, and other colleagues at work to submit my poem(s) for publication in our review. The theme for that submission was Gifts. I submitted three poems but my gifts were inherently Gifts from God. I received a rejection slip and I was told to continue to hone my skills and to submit the following year. Meanwhile, one of the writing professors gave me a beautiful poem about rejection slips. He told me then that he had received several. We laughed about that. In reality, I was not very disappointed. Others at work reminded me how important it was to resubmit at the next call. I never explained that I did not need that validation. The rejection for me was confirmation that I was not part of the tribe. I had learned that Jesus did not call us to do life alone. One of the speakers at the conference reminded us that we do not force ourselves to belong. We should find another tribe that is aligned. That is exactly what I did at the time of rejection. I could not take it personally. I had work to do. God had lead me to Janine at IVJ who continued to publish my work and went on to create Spirit Fire Review and invited me to come on board. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalm 27:10 (KJV) I continue to write about the glory of the Lord and social justice because justice has become a “dirty” word as though it is a word in opposition to law and order but it is an integral part of the whole. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., We cannot have law and order without justice. “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9 (KJV) “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights for all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) According to Lisa Bevere, the other keynote speaker at our Fearless conference, “We have been entrusted with the sword of the spirit, ( the word of God) not to cut down and destroy but to set the captives free.” She further stated that we have to combat the spirit of fear in our lives so the spirit of God can come forth.
We must remember that Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection and paid with His life. Jesus was rejected several times during His lifetime. He was rejected by individuals, by His community and the Jews at the synagogue. He was considered a false prophet. He was despised and rejected by many, including Peter, His beloved friend and disciple. Peter denied Jesus three times. And Judas another disciple betrayed Him. Jesus was arrested and spat upon, yet He knew He was sent by the father to do His work and that was His mission. He continued to declare who He was and what he was called to do. Today we stay focused and remember Jesus’ rejection was followed by the miraculous resurrection which we can also experience, once we continue to do His will we will walk in His Light. Sharon Tubbs added “We need to focus on pleasing God rather than pleasing people.” I receive the greatest joy and growth as a human being as I bask in His presence. I stay on purpose, and work with passion to experience and to share the love of God, and love of humanity. In the midst of all rejection I will press on. I am going about my father’s business fearlessly, for the love of God.
Elizabeth P. Brooks is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and now calls Tampa Bay home. She is deeply concerned about human dignity and the need for social justice. She is outgoing, loves the sound of laughter and the power of the word. She is a performance poet and has had several poems and two non-fiction essays published in Indiana Voice Journal. She is the author of a recently published chapbook ,“You May Applaud Now and other poems” and she is currently working on a novel and many other projects. Elizabeth is a reference librarian at Saint Leo University in Dade City, Fla., and volunteers as an adult literacy tutor in Tampa. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post. You can visit Elizabeth at her Facebook page here: Elizabeth Brooks