Given the recent controversies in the States with the Brock Turner trial and the latest allegations against Trump – global news thanks to the media – you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m going to be writing about sexual consent; however, I’m going to assume that my readers would already understand the importance of ‘yes’ in that context(!). Here, we’re going to examine the importance of ‘yes’ from a Christian perspective – the value of agreeing with what’s proposed; signing up; raising your hand; and being willing to both give and receive.
We’re so busy these days; we guard our schedules so closely. Every blog, magazine, and opinion piece I’ve read lately seems to have proclaimed the necessity of learning to say ‘no’ – and here I am proclaiming the opposite! It’s true – I agree with that other proclamation in this: we do need to be careful not to just agree to do whatever is asked of us regardless of the cost to our sanity, our dignity, and our felicity – but we also miss amazing opportunities when we’re too quick to say ‘no’ or to push aside a vision for something we’d like to be involved in.
So often, I think, something is asked of us, and our immediate instinct is to turn down the opportunity. We think, “I’ve already got too much on!” or, “This is WAY out of my comfort zone – NO, THANKS!” But when we resist that urge to say ‘no’ and instead jump in – boots & all – the results can be amazing.
Yesterday at church we examined the idea and practice of prayer. At some point, around the middle of the service, we were asked to gather with those around us and pray together. We were also encouraged to separate from our spouses for this purpose, so that we’d be a little further out of our comfort zone and meet a few more people (it’s a fairly large church). I love to pray, but my immediate thought was, “Uh – do we have to?” Just the idea of having to introduce myself to people I didn’t know and then pray – to share the intimacy of our hearts’ cries to God – was daunting. But I ignored the impulse to just huddle with my hubby in a prayer-group-for-two and instead headed to a few pews ahead to pray with some people I’d never met.
I discovered through our prayers that they were a family group, and they were dealing with some tough stuff; they were a bit emotional and one of them even apologised to me, as if she felt badly that I’d ended up in the middle of what they were going through. But I was delighted to be there. It was my joy and my privilege to pray for healing; I was happy to share prayers for our community and our church with these godly women, even in the midst of their own trials. God knew where he wanted me, and that’s where I ended up – but only because I said, “Yes.”
We need to be ready to say ‘yes’ in the moment – to ‘let go and let God’, as those in Christian circles are wont to say – because when we ignore our fears, push aside our doubts, and give our anxieties to God He will more than meet us in that moment.
We also need to overcome our reticence to say ‘yes’ when someone’s offering to do something for us or to share our burden. The women I prayed with today – they did that. They shared what they were going through; they welcomed me into prayer over their burden, delving into what really mattered to them, when they’d undoubtedly have found it easier to just stick to the script and pray some general prayer with me to get it over with.
I’ve just spent three weeks in virtual quarantine; our family’s been through a bad flu (high fevers, chills, and then colds) and conjunctivitis. Several kind friends offered to help in some way, but I was generally inclined to just soldier on as best I could. This was partly because there’s always someone who’s got it worse and partly because, what could they really do? What you really need when you’re in the midst of a family-wide flu is either (a.) a housemaid with a strong constitution (so she could clean up the inevitable tsunami of mess that accompanies a family of six being cooped up in a house for several weeks without, herself, succumbing to the bugs that had laid us so low); or (b.) a magic wand that would make me well enough to escape the confines of the infirmary (alas, with a grossly swollen eye I was fit only for the most desperate of forays into public for the purpose of gathering supplies!). Finally, though, a friend on her way to the supermarket offered to pick something up and – light bulb moment, here – I said, “Yes!” Well, after first saying ‘no’… I realised that we were out of oranges – and oranges were what my feverish ones were begging for – so I texted her back and said, “Yes, please – we’d LOVE a few oranges.” And *wow* – those oranges were such a treat (thank you, A, if you’re reading!)!
We’re so independent, most of us. We are so reluctant to let others do something for us – so hesitant to accept help. It’s pride, sometimes, that makes it difficult for us to say ‘yes’ to help; sometimes it’s more a sense of being undeserving of their kindness. Whyever it is that we’re reticent to accept help, we need to overcome that instinct, because relationships are built and strengthened by this give-and-take. I want my friends to accept an offer of a meal if it’ll make their lives easier for an evening when they’re dealing with illness, a new baby, or grief; I want them to let me fetch something when I’m doing my own shopping, or loan them something they’re short of, or collect their kids from school with mine when they’re running late for pick-up. And I know that they want me to say ‘yes’ to their offers to do the same. Saying ‘yes’ to involvement in the lives of those around us is key in building relationships.
I’ve got a few things going on, between our boys’ activities, church, writing work, and so forth. There are some new opportunities for involvement at church and school, too, and I’m having to consider each one before just leaping in and finding myself swamped. At the same time, I’m also working to avoid the trap of just saying, ‘No!’ to one more thing. I have to fight the urge to shut down and say, “No WAY can I take on more – have you seen the state of my HOUSE??! I can barely find energy to make lunches on school nights – how on earth will I find energy for something else?!” Because I know – as you probably do, too, in your heart of hearts – that when I’m doing things that I love, it energises me. When I make time for things I believe are important, I feel fulfilled; my time is reduced but my sense of accomplishment grows to more than compensate for what I’ve given up. It’s true that we have a finite amount of time and we need to be careful what we spend it on – but it’s also true we waste a lot of the time we have; perhaps even more when we haven’t said ‘yes’ to things that demand inclusion in our schedules.
It’s so easy to get into the habit of saying ‘no’. It can become our default method of self-preservation – but it can also prevent us from truly living up to our potential. It can hinder us from receiving a blessing; and it can prevent us from being a blessing to those around us.
Really, what it boils down to is this: Your ‘yes’ is important. It’s essential, really. So don’t be too frugal with it. Seize those opportunities! Bite off more than you can chew! When we open ourselves up to opportunities for service; avail ourselves of the kindness of others; and follow our vision with passion, we realise that none of the reasons to say ‘no’ really mattered at all.
NB: This post is dedicated to the memory of H.R., a wonderful brother-in-Christ who is now more than ‘resting in peace’ – he is living in Glory! He said ‘Yes!’ to God a long time ago, and his life was a tribute to the power of that commitment. He had a special gift for greeting and welcoming others, and I pray that I’ll always honour his memory by putting aside my shyness and greeting those around me – even those I don’t know – with warmth and compassion.
Thanks for reading!