A while back I posted a link to this fantastic post by Carrien, in which she suggests that the secret to an extraordinary life is simply saying YES. The whole thing is well worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:
That got me thinking about other people I admire. I found the same theme. They said yes, when they could have said no. […]
In 1976, at the age of 60, a woman by the name of Pauline Fell began walking the streets in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. Although she was a new Christian she asked God what He wanted her to do with her life, and felt His prompting to befriend people in the neighbourhood. For the next 25 years, almost every day, she faithfully walked the streets and alleys, visited the bars, prisons, local hospitals and hotels where her many friends could be found. She is known to many as “sister” or “mom” and virtually everyone in the downtown eastside respects this elderly woman…She said “yes”.
Mary, mother of Jesus. “May it be unto me as you have said.” She said yes.
Elizabeth Elliot and her friends, when asked if they would come and live with and teach the tribe that killed their husbands because they wanted to know why the men hadn’t defended themselves with the guns they carried said, “Yes.” Imagine that. The Auca tribe is completely different as a result of that journey.
Would you say yes? Do you?
Wow! YES! I thought after reading that post. And then I got a comment that made me smile, because it is exactly the type of thought I’d normally have after reading a great post like Carrien’s. In fact, I was surprised that this hadn’t already occurred to me when a reader named Michelle asked:
I’m trying to figure out how to put that into practice, exactly. I usually feel like I need to say no to more in my life. There’s always plenty that’s being asked of me, and if I said yes to it all, I would be shortchanging the people who need the most of me — my husband and kids — in favor of those on the periphery.
Umm…yes. That’s my problem too. What Carrien wrote rings true, and sounds so right…and yet I think that saying yes has often caused me to end up getting complete overloaded. I say YES to joining the weekly women’s prayer group, YES to writing a new article, YES to hosting a party, YES to attending a potluck, YES to cooking a meal for a mom with a new baby, YES to leading a field trip, YES to coordinate a ministry at church…and before you know it I end up on the brink of a nervous breakdown, my prayer life in shambles (because I hardly have time to breathe, let alone pray), my true priorities buried under a blur of frantic activity.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, and I think what it comes down to is this:
The spirit of saying yes is ultimately a spirit of making prayerful decisions without fear.
When I think about it, I say yes to many of these activities out of fear: I’m AFRAID people will think I’m rude if I don’t join the prayer group. I’m AFRAID the publication will implode if I tell them I can’t write the article right now. I’m AFRAID that the party will never come together if I put it off for a while. I’m AFRAID that I’ll miss out on something if I skip this month’s potluck. I’m AFRAID to ask the mom with the new baby if it would be okay if I just got takeout from her favorite restaurant. I’m AFRAID that nobody else will be able to lead the field trip if I don’t. I’m AFRAID that that ministry will never get off the ground if I’m not running it. (Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I am a control freak.)
In none of these examples did I think and pray about the activity and feel peacefully led by God to commit to this. No. In each case I just heard about the opportunity, got scared, and said yes as a knee-jerk reaction.
And so I think that this is really how we live that wonderful life of YES that Carrien writes about: pray — a lot — about which opportunities you’re meant to pursue, and then throw yourself into them with an undaunted, whole-hearted YES. Understand that in order to protect your YES, you must now say NO to competing activities. And trust God to work out the rest.