My mom says this all the time. REJECTION IS PROTECTION.
When she would tell me that after being rejected again and again after auditions, I would just toss it away like the sides I had just used to put myself on tape. “Yeah. Uh huh. Great!” But as she’s continued to say it year after year, almost like a mantra, I have found myself repeating it to myself again and again. And all the repeating has led to me actually believing the words that were coming out of my mouth.
I want to show you why I believe this to be true. An example through a story. Indulge me, if you will.
In early December 2018, I was finishing up my last week at the burger restaurant I had been at for the past six months. A couple weeks later, I would be skipping the celebration of my ten year wedding anniversary, in lieu of the fact that I was going to court to get a divorce. It was a helluva a week, I can assure you. So here I would be, newly divorced and moving back to my parents house in Arizona to figure out what was next. But prior to all of that going down, I was working my last few shifts at the restaurant and then heading to New York for my friend Stefany’s wedding. It was going to be a family affair. Christmas in New York. We were going to be there for five whole days and then I was going to stay on a few extra days by myself to hang with my friend Laura and enjoy all that New York has to offer.
Sidenote: I LOVE New York. The culture. The art. The bustling city. Pounding the pavement. The subway. The Museums and art galleries. The plays and delicious restaurants tucked into every nook and cranny. The fact that you can get to upstate New York, the beach, or the Mountains in just a short train ride or drive. The fact that everyone is too busy doing their own thing to worry about what anyone else is doing. So unlike LA. You can become anonymous in New York. I love that aspect of the city. Always have. Always will. The cost of living, not so much.
I arrived in New York early in the morning and hopped a Lyft into Manhattan with another passenger; a lawyer from Chicago who was there on business. We exchanged small talk. He was nice enough and gave me his card before he left, letting me know I should reach out if I ever needed a lawyer. Thanks man. Sadly, thanks to my upcoming divorce, I’ve got one already. So I probably won’t. But thanks anyway.
I was dropped at my hotel, where I left my bags with the concierge until I could check in later that afternoon. I scooted out of the hotel and walked a couple of blocks to a bank. I was going to need to open a new account. A single account. That way I would have a new debit card waiting for me when I got to Arizona. I love efficiency! Next, I hit the pavement and headed towards Times Square (ugh!). Lemme just say. I HATE Times Square. I hate how crowded it is. The lights. The loud noise. The amount of tourists. But our family friends were staying in the thick of it and they wanted to meet up for lunch. I couldn’t wait to see them, so I met them there. We found this hole-in-the wall Thai place and cozied up with some curry and coconut soup; the perfect meal on a chilly Thursday in December.
Later that day, the rest of my family arrived into town and we all wandered down town to this cute little cozy Irish pub for dinner. The following night we would all be heading to an Italian pizza spot for the rehearsal dinner to celebrate the bride and groom, who are VERY ITALIAN.
This story could get rather long-winded, so I’ll cut to the chase. While at the rehearsal dinner, my friend said, “Oh, you should meet so and so – he’s also an actor and is actually thinking about moving to LA and would probably love to pick your brain about it. Would you mind if I introduce you two?” “Not at all!” What I was thinking was, “Sure, why not, thank God for rescuing me from my own thoughts…anything to get my mind off of being at a wedding, where everything is about love and commitment and how great marriage is and blah blah blah….” Okay, it’s not really blah blah blah, but when you’re sad and going through a divorce the same week as your supposed ten year anniversary, that’s how it feels. And if I got to distract myself by talking about acting and work, then so be it!
So she waves this guy over who…speaking of distracting…was tall, dark and yes handsome, with a great smile, and as I’d learn over the course of our friendly chatting that night, kind, funny, thoughtful, a great listener, and had incredible manners. We spent most of the night just chatting away about acting and film and relationships and the like. He too, was in a tough situation where he had been engaged for years but had just broken it off and was having a hard time because they were still living together because of the cost of rent in NY being so high.
After dinner and speeches, he had to head out early to go to work but I remember him saying, “Gosh, I wish I didn’t have to go. I’m really enjoying talking to you.” He paused for a long moment and smiled. “I’ll look forward to seeing you at the wedding tomorrow night.” My heart fluttered. Like butterfly fluttering all beneath my chest and I remember feeling like my cheeks were flushed and everyone in the place could tell. Truth be told, only my family members and a couple of close friends noticed and kept making embarrassing comments, which I simply shrugged off. We were just talking after all. And please I’m still married and am not looking for anything, thank you DivorceCare for your wisdom! But I remember thinking, “Gosh, I haven’t felt anything like this in a REALLY long time.” And that of course, made me feel sad again. That here I had been married, just shy of ten years, and my heart hadn’t fluttered since I don’t know when.
So fast forward to the wedding. We had great conversation all night and he asked me if I would want to go see a play with him after my family headed out of town, since I was staying on a few extra days? There it was again. The heart flutter. I just smiled and said that sounded like a lot of fun. So the ceremony and the reception were beautiful, and following that, there was going to be an after party at this club where both the bride and groom, and tall handsome man worked. My family was going to skip out on this but he had asked if I’d come, “Please. It’s going to be fun. Plus we’ll get more time to talk.” Three Manhattans in, I decided that sounded like a great idea! Insert eye roll here. I was clearly drinking away my sorrows.
So I headed over to the club with some of our family friends and turned around to head back to the hotel just as quickly as I got there because I had gotten sick in the club bathroom. Classy, Stef. Real classy. I think the swirling lights, pounding music and confetti falling from the ceiling wasn’t helping the cocktails stay put. Any idea of hanging with tall handsome man had gone out the window as I was hanging on for dear life.
The next day we texted back and forth. I was trying to clear up what he thought was me being upset with him. He thought that’s why I left, even though he hadn’t even gotten there at that point.
Sidenote: Counseling teaches you a lot of things and at this point when he was texting me and apologizing and telling me he would never ask me to show up and then not come. That he’d never disrespect me like that. And although I appreciated those things deeply and they felt thoughtful, they also felt like red flags to me. Like, “We just met each other and chatted for two nights, bro. You don’t owe me anything and you aren’t obligated to me in any way.”
We missed each other entirely and he apologized saying he was really looking forward to spending more time with me later in the week. On another note, someone being vocal about how they felt about me was also something that had been lacking and the compliments were nice to hear. We made plans to hang later in the week and kept in touch through text over the next few days.
My family had left to head home and I scooted uptown to stay with my friend Laura and hang out. It was awesome spending time with her over the next couple of days and I was going to be leaving the next day. Tall handsome man and I made plans to hang out in the morning before my flight later that afternoon and because his work schedule hadn’t allowed for us to see a show, we decided we’d walk around a beautiful cathedral, then grab coffees real quick and just chat. Sounded so fun!
That night, although there was excitement and anticipation about hanging out with tall handsome man, there was also anxiety and fear. I fell asleep praying about it, asking the Lord to calm my nerves, that I would see this an an opportunity to simply hang out with a new friend I had just met, that the Lord would protect me and that I would choose to remain faithful and honorable to my marriage, be it emotionally or otherwise, to the very end. Which would be in less than five days. Great timing, huh?
I remember thinking and asking myself what I would do if he tried to kiss me? I could tell he wanted to and I decided that was never going to happen. Not on my watch, even if I felt attracted to him and we both wanted to. This wasn’t the time in life. For me or him. He had enough going on with his ex-fiancé. I was married through and through and I fell asleep with all of these thoughts and woke up to a text from tall handsome man at 4:22am that said,
“I’m sorry Stefanie but I was up until 3am having a heart breaking conversation with my ex and I’m really hurting/have an emotional hang over. I can’t meet up today. I’m sure if anyone can understand it’s you. It has nothing to do with you. You are a beautiful, bright, funny woman and I wanted nothing more than to spend time with you but I’m really broken right now.”
I sat there with a tiny sting of disappointment. I felt some sadness. Rejection. And yet, sweet relief! Instant peace. And total understanding. I felt like in this moment, the Lord knew what I needed and what was best for me (and tall handsome man). The thing I had fallen asleep praying for. What my heart was lacking and so desperately thirsty for. And I believe in that moment, it was SO OBVIOUS to me that the Lord was protecting me. From myself. From being in a situation that could get dicey. From another whirlwind of unneeded emotions.
So I got up and still went to that Cathedral and I enjoyed my last day in New York. And that space to be alone, to buy leather journals out of these cute little Christmas street stalls, to have a chai latte and a cupcake from Magnolia bakery, was just what my heart needed. Rejection is protection if we can see it that way. But that’s not all it is.
I follow a guy named Jay Shetty on Instagram – he’s inspiring and usually has something wise to share. He makes me think. Reassess. And recently he touched on the topic of rejection and I love what he said.
“Rejection is Redirection.”
Ooo, that’s good. I had always heard rejection is protection, but this new idea that rejection is not just protection but also redirection – I like that A LOT. The Lord will take us and He will protect us from what IS NOT best for us and redirect us to what IS best for us. He knows us. He sees everything. The present, the past, and what He has for us down the road in the future that could be sidetracked by what seems or feels right in the moment.
What I didn’t need was a new friend. What I didn’t need was a distraction. Or a temptation. Or nice words and comfort from tall handsome man, as nice as it was. What I didn’t need was anxiety or fear or complications or emotions being pulled in a million different directions. What I DID need was peace. What I needed was rest. Quiet. A calm in my spirit. His truth. His word. His goodness. His comfort. His peace. What I simply needed was Him. Just Him.
And so I responded to tall handsome man with,
I totally understand. I’m sorry to hear that you guys had a tough night. Praying for you both and hoping that you’re able to heal together if possible and if not, move in the right direction for both of you. I’ll continue to pray for you guys – great meeting you and best of luck in Michigan! You’re gonna kill it. Take your hurt to the Lord – tell Him. He’s the only one that can really give us all we need!
And with that, I got on a plane and flew home to Nashville. Rejection, yet peace because I knew it was protection. The next day was my ten year anniversary which somberly came and went. Rejection again, yet peace and protection. Four days later, my parents, my sister and my two childhood friends sat with me in court as I went through my divorce. Rejection reminder again, yet peace and comfort and protection from the Lord and my heart people. A week before Christmas, I packed up all of my life and a few days later was on a plane to Arizona. Redirection.
And man am I thankful for redirection because it has led me to where I am today. God is always on the move. He always has plans and those plans will always succeed. He’s always protecting His children and He’s always redirecting us to the better. And although tall handsome man seemed great at the time, he’s got nothing on what God had in store for me today. What He was protecting me for and what He was redirecting me to. So trust when rejection happens. Trust you are being protected and redirected to something so much greater than the seemingly great that’s standing right in front of you. Even if he is tall, dark, and handsome.