This week, someone is going to ask you to do something. How should you respond if you know you can do it, but you also know you don’t need to do it?
This quandary probably won’t be the result of an unethical request. Maybe what they’re asking is simply not for you to do. If you say “yes” to what you don’t need to do, how will you find space for what you truly feel called to do? And if you say “no” to what is truly life-giving, you might find yourself consumed by what is life-draining.
Practicing Our Faith, an online resource that curates Dorothy Bass’s writings on Christian practices, describes 12 spiritual practices that involve us in God’s activity in the world. One practice that might be particularly helpful during the Lenten season is being intentional, courageous and honest when saying “yes” and “no.”
Sometimes our “yes” turns into a “no” because we’ve said “yes” to too many good things. Learning to be deliberate about saying “yes” or “no” involves reflection about who and what we give our energy and attention to. It’s a daily practice. In our choice-maximizing culture, there’s always plenty to say “yes” to. The person who always says “yes” is the life of the party. The one who says “no” is considered a killjoy.
It is worth our time to take a good look at what we’ve said “yes” and “no” to lately. Why did we respond the way we did? How do we feel about our decision in hindsight? Perhaps the most important question is whether there is something we need to learn and do differently in the future.
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Before you go…
Two powerful moments in the New Testament happened because of a faithful “yes” and a courageous “no.” An angel visited Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary could not understand how this would happen, but she still said, “Yes.” Before his arrest, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane. Fully aware of the suffering in his future, he considered doing his own will. Instead, he said “no” to his way and “yes” to the way of the cross. Each response took courage and faith. Today, I hope we can choose that same courage and faith.
Thanks for reading this week’s issue. You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity