Yes to the puppy, the walks, the cuddles, and the joy of our kids delighting in her.
Yes. I’m trying to say yes more often these days, with more reckless abandon. It is a dangerous word. Yes tempts me, commits me, holds me. It binds me. And it is the only word that makes sense of my spiritual life. It is the word that God speaks to me, over and over again.
I make my living in religious settings, wading through the most intimate moments of human living, and wrestling with some of life’s most challenging situations. I spend a lot of time with people and rules and we talk a lot about what is wrong and what needs to change. My friends and neighbours who are not intimately connected with my world are intimately aware of the things to which my religious community says no. No is also a powerful word. But it is not an inviting one. And it can never be the word upon which to build a life.
When I was locked in a particularly frustrating pattern of power struggles with my littles, I began to read, as I do, devouring books and blogs, seeking understanding and answers and mostly a magic solution to my problem. I did not find what I was looking for, because what I was wanting was an escape from the messy humanity of real life. But I did find a clue.
Several sources pointed to the power of yes. How often do I, as a parent, give no as the answer? Can we paint with our fingers? No, it’s too messy. Can we do an experiment? No, we don’t have time. Can we…? No. The whole of my over-protected life rests on the hinges of what will not fit. There’s another way.
Another way often results in stronger connections between parents and their children, I have learned. I can say yes to finger painting when I give my kids the responsibility of cleaning up and myself permission to have laughing kids and a few extra minutes to wipe up the places they miss. I can say yes to the experiment after dinner, if not now. The real reason I am so inclined to say no is because the yes costs me something. It requires me to say no to my own way, no to my schedule, no to my own expectations.
To say yes to one thing is always to say no to others There’s no avoiding the no, yet my religious tradition has said no so frequently that many people, both inside of churches and outside of them, no longer know to what what we are saying yes. To choose faith and a spiritual way of life is to say yes to God with our whole lives. And life brings so many things my way that I would not choose for myself that I need to stay focused on my yes to keep swimming when I would otherwise be pulled under.
I am saying yes to a God who says yes to my deepest hopes and scariest emotions, who wraps me in love and replaces my fear with freedom. I am saying yes to all the discomfort that growth requires, choosing to learn, to get up again when I inevitably fail, to choosing again. I am saying yes to a God who never takes away my freedom and who set the world up in such a way that I can only say yes for myself.
I am saying yes to being with my people, to hearing little voices, to laughter. Here’s my yes to joy and gratitude, to more playing in the rain and fingerprints on the windows, to messier bathrooms and more piles of laundry. Yes to a new puppy and to date night on the couch and donations to families homeless and displaced by the fire. To the requests for more of me and less stuff to do, the answer needs to be yes.
I am saying yes to vulnerability and to imperfection. If you think I have it all together, I am sorry for deluding you. It is time for yes to truth-telling, and yes to uncertainty, mistakes, and the mess. Yes to a simpler way of living, by doing the next thing that lies in front of me and leaving for tomorrow what cannot fit in today. Yes to really seeing the people around me and really listening to them. Yes to forgiveness and starting over again. I am saying yes to rest.
My heart is often heavy with all the things that need to be done, and especially the things I cannot do and wish I could. And only one thing is needed: yes to the next thing that lays before me. Yes to this. Yes to now. Yes, with my whole heart to this moment and this life. Amen.