Yes & Amen
Recently, all around me, I seem to be running into the concept of ‘yes’. Whether it’s in the books I’m reading, the sermons on Sunday morning, or the conversations I’m having, yes is everywhere.
However, it’s confusing to hear this word discussed in a positive way. It feels like more often than not, saying yes is associated with over scheduling and piling your plate to a capacity that is too much to handle. I had fallen into this trap this summer and numerous seasons before: taking a job for a little extra money; squeezing in a few more sessions to try to increase my volume in the gym; taking on more responsibilities with work and school; yes to this project; yes to hanging out tonight even though I have to be up in the morning; just yes, yes, yes. It’s overwhelming, draining, and honestly miserable to live like this. Thus, I had to learn to say no and mean it (YAY FOR ASSERTIVENESS TRAINING!).
But now, it seems I’m being encouraged in the way of yes.
I just finished reading the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist a few weeks ago. The whole book is a description of her journey from constantly frantic, anxious writer to life-giving, free-loving mother, wife, and friend. Seeing as I’ve struggled with clinical level anxiety a large portion of my life, this book was just what I needed. Even if you’re a high-strung perfectionist without a mental health diagnosis, this book is for you, too. Heck, if you love Jesus and want encouragement, this book is for you, i.e. GO READ IT! Anyway, throughout one of the sections of the book, Shauna discusses a concept she’s created for herself, heart and yes. The heart simply represents love: God’s love for us, doing all things in love, just burning red passionate love in her life. The yes represents jumping: jumping in faith when you’re full of fear, following the calling God is stirring in your heart, embracing life with a whole-heart and arms wide open to all possibilities because a life with God is an infinite chasm of possibilities only He could lead you to for your abundance and His glory.
I personally struggle with the yes way of living. I like controlled substances, to place people and things in their assigned boxes, and planning (days, months, and years of planning). So, the spontaneous free spirit way of living where I throw my cares into the wind and ride a horse bareback through the countryside headed wherever my spirit takes me is not what I call “fun”. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying. I embrace what I can control and of which I can be certain. I take risks when I know there are several safe outcomes waiting for me on the other side (which isn’t really a risk at all). Yes is a vocabulary word used on particular occasions because I love to say no, keeping people out of my life and my schedule tidy.
As God’s begun to prime me for more of His teaching, I’ve been encountering yes with increasing frequency. After I finished reading Shauna’s book, I went out and bought a small ceramic name plate for my desk that says, ‘start with yes’, as a daily reminder to keep my heart and yes open to God. This concept started to come up in my conversations at church, as well. Zack and I recently started attending a new church in our city and got involved in a small group. The conversations I’ve had with these new friends have all been surrounded around trying new things and having an open heart to God’s workings. I began to see a pattern.
Then this past week was when I had a come to Jesus moment with Jesus Himself. Once a month, all the small groups have a gathering with the other small groups that meet on the corresponding night as their own as a larger community. It’s a way to meet others in the church who go to small group the same night that you do that you wouldn’t necessarily meet otherwise. We share a meal, worship, take communion, and listen to a teaching from one of the pastors. This week’s teaching centered around developing Godly character. The message was all well and good, but that wasn’t necessarily what caught my attention. I was convicted, and quite frankly scared, when the pastor challenged us to be open to the change God wants to bring into our lives. God loves growth and calls us towards it constantly throughout the various seasons He leads us through. Without growth, there is no relationship with Him.
I love growing and striving for excellence. That is what pushes me to become a better athlete, student, and overall person. Yet, whenever God initiates change (i.e. when the control isn’t in my hands), I freeze. I associate change with God as pain with God; He’s either going to take a significant relationship away from me, challenge a fundamental belief that will rock my entire universe, or create circumstances that leave me feeling stranded because He removed me from all my comfortable surroundings. I tend to shy away when I get any whiff of the possibility of God-initiated change.
As I was praying that night, I visualized myself gripping the people and things in my life I care about most with white knuckles, begging God to please not take them from me. Not again. No more pain – I can’t handle it. But I heard a still small voice whisper to my heart, I’m not here to take anything away from you. I am not here to bring you pain. Change does not always require loved ones to be lost. Will you trust me?
I was stilled. I reflected on the times in the past where my world was shook and relationships were severed due to God-change. It was for the better in the end and I am now grateful, however, there were earth-shattering months spent in heartache between now and then. I had no desire to go back to that place. Luckily, God doesn’t always call us there.
I was mulling this over with Zack the night after, almost in tears. I was fearful I’d tell him I was afraid God would take him away from me and he would confirm my fear by saying that God wanted him to move on. That didn’t happen. Yet, Zack reminded me of an analogy I had told him months ago about a house.
Relationships are like houses. If it’s healthy, all of the windows and doors are wide open, a gently breeze is blowing through the corridors filling the rooms with sweet smells and warmth. Although all the doors and windows are open, neither person leaves. They stay because of CHOICE. An unhealthy relationship keeps all of the doors and windows boarded up and bolted shut with multiple deadlocks on each opening. No one is allowed to leave, not by choice, but rather suffocation and control.
Previously, I’ve been in and controlled relationships likes the boarded up house. However, with Zack, I realized that my relationship was the healthy, open house (that realization felt good). But my relationship with God, on the other hand, was a skewed version of both. My house with God had open windows and doors, but instead of a gentle breeze, I imagined hurricane winds howling and rushing through, wreaking havoc and destroying all in its path. I sat in the middle of the house clutching my most prized loves with white knuckles, gritting my teeth, and holding on for dear life.
A part of me lives in fear of God: in fear of what He’ll take away and what He may never give me; so, each time I am blessed by Him, I grab on without relent, motivated by the insecurities that breed in my heart.
When I came to terms with this realization, I understood why God was beginning to teach me the concept of yes. He wants my yes more than anything – a free yes with open arms and hands. Not a yes with a trembling voice and taking what He’s asked of me from each gnarled finger. I’m learning slowly to trust. To believe the truth that God is not out to hurt me or bring me heartache, but rather to love me fully without hindrance. He is a gentle God; it is we who make His will seem harsh and difficult by resisting.
Ask yourself: how do you visualize your relationship with God? How do you see Him as a being? Is He an evil dictator out for your demise or a loving Father who wants nothing more than to hold you and embrace you with freedom? Where is your trust? What are you holding on to with grim death?
There is FREEDOM in letting go for God’s will is the safest place to be.