“You can say ‘no.’”
Immediately, my guard went up.
It was Christmas time, so my planner was bulging its squares with lists of things to buy and to wrap and to bake. What was my husband going to propose that required this ominous-sounding, front-loaded disclaimer?
Well, it turns out that there was this puppy . . .
A St. Bernard puppy – the dream puppy of my youngest son’s heart.
Could I really say ‘no’?
Well, sure . . . I could have, but how much cuteness would I have missed at the sight of a small boy’s head resting on a big dog’s sprawled body? How much joy and laughter would be absent each Christmas without Tucker’s howling descant that floats atop our seasonal singing?
It seems to me that many of life’s loveliest gifts come with a built-in refusal clause:
“Be still and know that I am God, (Psalm 16:10 NKJV).
I can say no to stillness. I am free to fill my life with activity and noise that drown out the whisper of God’s Spirit.
“In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path,” (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV).
I can say no to His direction. I can bulldoze my own path through life.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” (Isaiah 12:3 NKJV).
I can say no to eternal abundance. My bucket can hang out to dry while I search for joy in ways that leave me parched and exhausted.
Or I can trust God and make room in my heart for the risk that comes with a yes.
The “yes” that bubbled to the surface on the Christmas that Tucker joined our crew was a gift to my family, but it was a gift to me as well, for I learned that I don’t have to play it safe in my love for my family.
Acceptance of inconvenience stretches the boundaries of my heart, while my yes becomes a reminder that Jesus Himself ushered in The Season of Yes with His embrace of God’s great rescue plan for the human race. Early in His ministry, He made His mission clear: “I have come down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me,” (John 6:38 NKJV).
This is deep teaching that we revisit every Advent season, but as my sons grow into men, our Advent traditions are no longer about teaching them the message of Christmas. No, they’ve celebrated with stories and carols for so many years that now Advent has become a time to remember known truth and to rejoice in it together; to offer up our hearts as a family in an echo of God’s resounding YES that came when Jesus poured His glory – and His obedience – into a small body and entered time and space.
Jesus brought with Him the Promise, the Mercy, the Forgiveness, and the Welcome that lie at the heart of what we celebrate every Christmas. His big, beautiful obedience opened the way for my heart to accept His grace and truth — and sometimes . . . to move outside my comfort zone in this glorious Season of Yes.
An Announcement for January
Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia. It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces. One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”
Till We Have Faces is a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.” I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:
- The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
- I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule. My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book. If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments. If you don’t blog, no worries. Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.
More details to follow!
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