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Just Say Yes


"God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there's nowhere for Him to put it.”

St. Augustine


Before the end of the sixth grade, I had stopped practicing my clarinet. From a twelve-year-old point of view, other opportunities looked more appealing. As promised, lack of practice was a deal breaker, and Mom returned the rented instrument and told the band teacher I was no longer interested.

This led to a tragedy of pubescent proportions. When the next school year began, I was placed in the seventh grade General Music class.

I was horrified. Scales, time signatures, fermatas—I knew this stuff cold, but by some great injustice I was being forced to sit in la-la-la-la-la land with the uninitiated.

The final straw came as we spectators marched into the first band concert of the year. Forty kids sat on stage adjusting their glimmering instruments and, I was sure, looking down on us mere mortals of the “audience” species.

I know this is weird, but I cried. The next day, I joined the band.

Each time we make a choice, it seems as though a few neural connections get created, which make that same choice easier in the future. Over time, it takes an increasing degree of resolve to change course. Sometimes being told No is just the thing needed to get nudged back onto the right track.

Fast forward five years to a lively gathering in upstate New York, where my sister and I are listening as an itinerant evangelist invites us to give our lives to Jesus Christ.

Our attendance was the result of a grade school teacher inviting a Catholic family (us) to hear a gospel choir in a Baptist church. Catholics were plentiful in Rome, New York, but rare in Baptist pews. Rare enough that the pastor and church members took a special interest in our presence, making house calls, inviting us to Christian movies, and letting us know when Billy Graham was on TV.

When a new Billy Graham movie came to town, we happily went along, unaware that the church had actually rented the theater, and that the movie would be followed by a real, live preacher inviting movie goers to pray at the foot of the screen. Afterwards, my mom told us she literally had to sit on her hands to keep from responding. For some reason, while I was happy for the people that did respond, I didn’t have the slightest clue that the message applied to me as well.

How God actually gets through to a teenage boy is still a mystery to me, but the words began to take root, and I slowly realized that the Inviter had not been the person holding the microphone. The Inviter was the God of Universe. The invitation was convincing because of the need for forgiveness, but compelling because of Who was doing the inviting.

Which brings us back to the gathering, where I absolutely knew that the message applied to me, and that I was ready to say yes. Or so I thought. As the invitation was given, my mind told my body to move, but nothing happened. Stuck in my chair, seemingly against my will, I watched as others surrendered their lives to a loving Savior.

Later that night, when I told my sister what had happened, she said she had experienced much the same thing. So we made a pact to return the next night and make public our new found faith, no matter what. The next night, before the preacher was half a sentence into his invitation, my sister and I jumped up and stood at the makeshift altar.

No moment has had a more profound effect on my life. Except possibly the moment on the previous night, when we made a decision to respond to God’s calling regardless of the obstacles.

You’d think I would have learned by now, but still the smallest of barriers often keeps me from doing the most important things. How many times have I stubbornly resisted or ignored God’s gifts that were just a decision away?

So if you see me sitting on my hands when the right choice is clearly right in front of me, feel free to kick the chair out from under me. (Just to clarify, I was talking to God in that last sentence.)

April 4, 2005 | Permalink

Comments

I just said yes to something that, apparently, has been much needed in my life. I suppose the barriers there had always been small as well. Just seemed huge. We'll see how this new path changes the world I inhabit.

Have youever read any of John R. Powers' novels on growing up Catholic? If not, you must.

Posted by: Michael O'Connor on Apr 5, 2005 1:55:43 AM


this reminds me of my struggle at church. i dont know whether i should go up and ask for prayer from our pastors at the end of service. sometimes i feel shy, sometimes i think they have too many people to pray for already. this past weekend, our pastor talked about saying goodbye to our past (something i really need to do) and from the beginning of the sermon i started to struggle about whether or not i will go up to ask for prayer at the end of the meeting.

maybe i should learn to just say yes...

Posted by: jane on Apr 5, 2005 1:21:35 PM


Michael: This may not be true for others, but I think saying yes usually takes more work than saying no. Which is the best Power's book to start with?

Hi Jane: Thanks for commenting! You're right - the real struggle might not be whether to pray, but whether to obey what we already know. On one occasion, when I asked for prayer after a service, the pastor flipped to 2 Peter 1:3 and read, "[He] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him..." The verse itself was an answer to prayer because I had begun to doubt my ability to obey God.

Posted by: Doug on Apr 7, 2005 12:24:36 PM


Isn't it amazing, though, how God brings those early decision to mind to stir things up? This post blessed me. Thanks for sharing with such honesty and clarity.

Posted by: MacroMoments on Aug 19, 2005 2:07:24 PM


Happy birthday, Doug!!! :)

Posted by: irene on Sep 12, 2005 1:29:35 AM



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