Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Saying No to God

As Catholics, we make a lot of Mary’s fiat. Her “yes” to God.

And rightfully so: we get how that “yes” gave us a chance at salvation.

Unfortunately, in seeking to imitate Mary, we have almost crushed ourselves with consequences of a life filled with our own “yes” responses and have, ultimately, been saying “no” to God without often realizing it.

Somehow we have translated Mary’s “yes” to mean that we ought to say “yes” to everything that comes our way—to every idea that pops into our heads and to every opportunity to do something good; we’ve mistakenly believed that our lives are meant to be filled with fiats when, in truth, these fiats have often taken us away from God. They have filled our lives with obligations and busy-ness that may not actually be God’s will for us.

 I’m at the age where all my friends and acquaintances are caregivers of one sort or another. They are grandparents doing everything they can to help pick up the slack and they are volunteers at a variety of different, amazing organizations. Some are caring for older parents and working full time while others are blogging and running home businesses and still others are young women who have filled their lives with exciting and rewarding prospects to do great things in the world.

Without exception, each considers her lot in life to be one of “yes.”
And on the surface I agree. We do serve God through others; it is a good thing to model Mary’s fiat.

However, it is important to overlay the entirety of Mary’s life upon our own if we choose to imitate her. It is imperative to see that her “yes” involved the fullness of her time.

What does this mean, though?

Well, there’s only so much we can do in any given day or week. When we begin saying “yes” to everything that comes our way—and don’t discern God’s will but just assume it—we actually have less time for God. In that way our “yes” actually begins to be a “no.”
First and foremost we have to take back the understanding that everything life is a vocation. And every vocation is a call from God. It isn’t a willy-nilly stumbling along doing lots of “good” things.

We each have a specific call and we all certainly have different seasons in our lives in which the call changes, grows, evolves. What was right yesterday may no longer be right today. But how can we know what we are called to be doing at any given point in time if we just keep piling on things in our lives with a “yes” to every request that comes along? Looking at the fullness of Mary’s life, we see that her “yes” was an anointed journey from beginning to end. God did not have her going in a thousand different directions.

This is actually what God asks of us: to discern his will and take it from beginning to end; in that way our own “yes” has the full impact it was meant to have—just as Mary’s did.
Maybe you are called to be a caregiver for your aging father. It is a noble call and one that will be demanding and even difficult. Chances are you will find, because it is God’s will, that this “yes” will take you into a deep, profound relationship with God because there will be much for God to teach you in the midst of this time caring for your dad. You might learn forgiveness and unconditional love—or patience and perseverance, and so on.

If now, you also say “yes” to the local school because they need a volunteer to read to the kindergarten kids, you have less time for the care of your father—and certainly less time for God even though reading to the kindergarten kids is a beautiful and valuable thing to do and it seems on the face of it that you will find God there, too. But maybe, just maybe, God’s will was to use that time quietly with him in prayer so that your time with your aging father would be more meaningful and not just an obligation.

Both caring for your father and reading to the kids is good—and that is what makes the negative ramifications of our “yes” to everything so difficult for us to see.

Then your place of employment decides to have a retirement party for your favorite co-worker. You love her, she has been a real confidant and friend, and you are sincerely sad to see her go and so of course you will spearhead to event! How could you not? Again, a good and kind and loving thing to do—nothing sinful about it. So why shouldn’t you? The way you see it, it is an opportunity to say “yes” with bells on and to serve God. You will make your friend happy and she will know how much you cherish her. On your way to seeing your dad you will order the cake and tomorrow you will just spend a half an hour less with dad because you will go print out the announcements for your friend’s retirement party…

But women are excellent at multi-tasking you say?

I can also eat a quart of chocolate gelato but that doesn’t mean I should.

That’s why we have to go back to Mary’s fiat and see that the thing to take away from it is that the “yes” was an agreement from beginning to end—and that was enough. That is what God asks of us: to say “yes” to his will and then to stay with him for the duration, which will be clear to us because we are serving him so fully and thus are hearing him more clearly.

What is God really asking each of us to say “yes” to today? Because he isn’t asking us to say “yes” to everything; of that we can be sure. Otherwise, there is absolutely no point in free will or discernment. Ironically, we might actually begin to push God out of the picture with every “yes” we proclaim. Instead, let us learn from Mary’s fiat to run the race God has invited each of us to run. Let’s each say “yes” to our individual races with excitement, anticipation, love, and faith—for it is there that God is patiently waiting for each of us and where our fiats will bear the most fruit, just as Mary’s did.

(The illustration is by Shannon Wirrenga and is from the Elizabeth Ficocelli vocation awareness book Where Do Sisters Come From?)

No comments:

Post a Comment