Those of you who were able to attend Stand Strong, our annual Activate weekend away, will have been impacted by Sarah McKerney’s words in that first session:
You can’t have a yes without a no.
How are you doing with this? For those of us who are ‘yes-women’, it is a hard lesson to learn. We train everyone around us to know they will get a ‘yes’ from us. We are on several different rotas at church. We race around to make a delicious meal for someone else’s family when their cat dies and then run out of time for our own family, who end up with ‘make your own wraps’ with a few bendy carrot sticks and some pastrami that has been open longer than two days. We are the first to ‘like’ a post on social media. Our phone beeps and we are the first in the WhatsApp group to answer. We rescue an event when others pull out but forget to go to celebration assembly at school because our brain is full of everyone else’s agendas (true story from 6/3/17!).
For those who didn’t hear the message, Sarah was talking about the rhythms and tempos of life. She talked about living in a way that allows us to rest by taking on Jesus’ yoke. The part that sticks with me is this:
If your yoke is not easy and light, perhaps Jesus isn’t the one who put it on you. By staying in step with Jesus you can walk with unforced rhythms of grace. This weekend is not about praying away our circumstances. It is about standing strong in our circumstances.
Sarah has been inspired by Shauna Niequist’s most recent book, Present Over Perfect. I knew about this before the weekend away, partly because she told me about it and gave me a copy and partly because she started to answer my emails and texts at 3 pm each day instead of always firing back answers straightaway. She was putting what she was reading into practice and the rest of the team noticed! And I didn’t think, ‘Huh, that’s rude, why isn’t she answering straight away?!’ I thought how measured and disciplined she was being, and how nice she was probably being to her husband and kids. Now that I’m reading the book I think I’m being slightly less frantic in my WhatsApp messaging, slightly more engaged with my family calendar than the life group schedule and slightly more lightly to put the electric blanket on at 9.30pm and be in bed by 10pm. And this intentionality might lead me to be more enthusiastic about the things I really do want to say yes to.
Have a read of these extracts from Present Over Perfect and let the ideas swirl around in your head for a few days.
Oh, the things I did to my body and my spirit in order to maintain my reputation as a high-capacity person. Oh, the moments I missed with people I love because I was so very committed to being known as the strongest of the strong. Oh, the quiet moments alone with God I sacrificed in order to cross a few things off the to-do list I worshipped. (p.40)
People called me tough. And capable. And they said I was someone they could count on. Those are all nice things. Kind of. But they’re not the same as loving, or kind, or joyful. I was not those things. I believed that work would save me, make me happy, solve my problems; that if I absolutely wore myself out, happiness would be waiting on the other side of all that work. But it wasn’t. (p.42)
You can’t have a yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realising it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments. (p.49)
What kind of witnesses are we to ‘a life in all its fullness’ when all our friends see is a frantic race to the next task of the capable, rescuing woman? Why would they want that kind of fullness in their lives? Let’s be brave and say that two-letter word a few more times… and just watch whether it changes everything.