It’s never easy to deal with rejection—actual or perceived. No matter how old or mature you get, the sting of it never becomes an enjoyable experience. When loving others is at the core of who you are, it’s hard not to take it personally when you feel as though others don’t receive you, validate you, or respond positively to you. We learn how to interpret rejection early in life, and if we aren’t taught where our value is rooted and grounded, it can have toxic effects in our relationships and the way we look at and accept ourselves throughout our lives. Growing up in today’s culture, where there are innumerable external stimuli that try and have a voice in defining us, it’s absolutely necessary that we connect to our intrinsic, God-given value and worth. We live in a culture that offers a plethora of forces and influences that seek to tie our identity and worth to what we do, how well we do it, and how others perceive our performance. Trying to survive, much less thrive in life is impossible without having an understanding and confident faith in who we are in Christ, regardless of what we do, how we look, or how well others think we do what we do. Creative and artistic people can easily fall victim to this epidemic of misplaced and distorted identity because of our need for validation, and we often seek that validation in the approval of others relative to our creativity and talent. Having a revelatory perspective and understanding of who we are in Christ and His heart for us gives us the freedom, confidence, and security to create out of an overflow of who we are in Him, instead of trying to establish our worth or identity based on what we do while living under the constant pressure to perform. Living securely in God’s purpose for our life, and freely in who He created us to be in Christ produces a natural and effortless flow of uncontrived expressions of creativity, grace, and power that clearly reflect the heart of God to humanity. I am friends with some gifted, creative, but wounded and jaded souls here in Music City. They have been used as curb appeal and drawing cards to various ventures and ideas of strong leaders. Being a creative person myself, I understand the personality styles and vulnerabilities of these people. I experience them firsthand. I've been victimized by those "Type A" self-professed leaders, who recognize our need for validation in our gifts, and learn how to manipulate and exploit those areas for their own agendas, ideas, or selfish promotion. Sadly creative individuals have had withdrawals made from us repeatedly, and our abilities promoted and showcased in order to bring clout, appearance, and credibility to the influence and enterprises of strong personalities who are "building something for God", but once those creative souls and their talents have been used up or considered no longer a part of the leader's vision, they are discarded with hardly a life-giving deposit made in their lives or genuine encouragement as to where their identities and value truly exist and grow from. To those misguided leaders, a creative person’s value is found primarily if not exclusively in their gifts, instead of their hearts and God-given purpose. I had a conversation with another minister a while back, and he told me that if someone wasn't focused on helping him build what he was trying to build, then he probably wouldn't be interested in spending time with that person or developing the relationship. I was appalled and speechless at that response, and in my opinion, there was so much wrong with that statement that I considered a rebuttal to him useless. Unfortunately, that mindset is incredibly rampant in church building, planting, or leadership culture today. If you're not playing in their sandbox, they have no interest in developing relationships with you or exploring God's direction or process in the holistic health and success of your journey. As long as the potential exists for you to bring your gifts, talents, or abilities to their team, vision, or local expression of church, they'll wine you and dine you, but when you cease to be a viable commodity to their particular God venture or supposed vision, you suddenly lose your appeal, and in many cases, you are marginalized and stereotyped as a rebellious creative person, trying to build your own thing, or not being “true” to the particular vision, whatever that means. It can become a classic case of the “Saul and David Syndrome”. And trust me, I've heard all the charismatic clichés, leadership catchphrases, and supposed justifiable reasoning from the builders or visionaries as to the "stewardship" of their time and efforts, and the need of focusing only on what they are "called" to build and the people in their organization. But in my experience, their distorted reasoning doesn't hold water. That may be the thinking in corporate American culture, but it's diametrically opposed to Kingdom culture and the way Jesus modeled that culture for us. Jesus has already built His church. He's the head. He doesn’t need us to build Him anything. We are simply members of His body, citizens of His Kingdom, sharing our gifts, talents, and hearts for no agenda but HIS. Bottom line, it's either His Kingdom or it's yours, and the way you view relationships with others who don't bring equity to your ventures says a lot about what Kingdom you're advancing. When we humbly allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ and His heart of Kingdom living, community, and creativity, we will realize that our talents, our influence, and our identities are not about us establishing our brand, building a following, or creating an image to be approved or validated by man. They are simply gifts given by our Father to reflect Him in everything we do, to enjoy an abundance in life in every aspect of our being, and to live restfully, joyfully, and creatively to bring heaven to earth—His will, His Kingdom, on earth, as in heaven. What a transcendent peace and unspeakable joy to live effortlessly in the flow of the “unforced rhythms of His Grace” in our MiDentity, in Christ, securely beloved and pleasing to our Father. This is Life lived with all things new!