How many times have we said “No” to something because we thought we were not…name your problem. Because we were not talented enough; good enough; experienced enough; good looking enough; creative enough; assertive enough; humble enough; passionate enough; energetic enough; young enough…you get the idea.
I had thought that I was too old to do any more parish ministry when I was asked to fill in at a little church 20 miles north of me more than a year ago. How in the world did I find myself saying, “Yes” to them when I had decided to say “No” to anyone who asked? How monumentally blessed was I because something in my spirit said that I needed to do this? And the word, “Okay” kept coming out of my mouth for a year every time I was asked to continue for another week, another month.
If I had said, “No” to begin with, I would have missed Jack. And Camden, who I baptized. And Emma. And Kylee. And Lucas. And Skylar. And all the other babies, grade school kids and teenagers. And they would have missed me, still with plenty of love to give away.
On November 24th, the work of the day after church was setting up the Christmas trees and wreaths out in the yard for sale. Everyone was out in the cold, hustling and bustling, even the kids. Every tree was bound with yards and yards of plastic rope. The experienced would tell the less experienced which trees should be set up here, and which had to go there. The sounds and sights of this yearly event were magic. From little Jack, who is 2, up to the more elder members of the congregation, everyone was pitching in. The new 60-year-old pastor was an absolute whirlwind.
11-year-old Emma was there, energetically whacking away at the reluctant binding cords with her scissors and throwing the pieces to the winds to set the branches free. Jack hauled long strands of the stuff to boxes for disposal. Jack was too busy just then to give me one of his full-body hugs that he throws around me so enthusiastically every Sunday.
On December 1st, it was time to clean and decorate the sanctuary for Advent and Christmas. This is family time, in all the ways that count. Ten-month-old Camden was there in his moveable baby chair, full of smiles and giggles. He grabbed my hand with his little pudgy fingers and laughed – and held on – and on – and on. There is just something magical and affirming about the wild and free love that a child can dispense so joyously, isn’t there?
If I had listened to my logical self – which said I’m too old – I would have missed all this. I would have missed the joy and love of children, whose love is unimpeded by shoulds and oughts and what if’s. I would have missed countless conversations with kids whose eyes light up when they can tell me about something that has thrilled them. And giving high-fives during the time that we pass the peace, sharing our grins. And I feel so “cool.”
Children sometimes have a way of reminding us of who we are. They are grace in the flesh, these children and young people. We belong to each other, and that is so good. So good that we keep coming back to have the experience of this kind of love and acceptance all over again. It takes saying “Yes,” again and once more. And finding our purpose all over again.
Never let the first “No” be the last response
when a monumental “Yes” may just be waiting for us
to have the courage to take a chance.
To find a new purpose.
To find a magic that we would otherwise miss.
And that would be such a loss.
I’m more in the mood for being found.
As in “Amazing Grace.”
And I’m very okay with that.