Brave Enough to Say Yes

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…

Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

I’m no transcendentalist, Thoreau and I probably wouldn’t see eye to eye on much of life, and I don’t think a “[sturdy]…Spartan-like” existence in the woods is necessary to discovering life’s meaning (though there’s likely much to be gained for other elements of character). But in the midst of Thoreau’s seeking, his longing, his pursuit of a regret-less life, there’s something in his journey that rings true in my heart and, I think, in the heart of humanity at large.

—and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…

It resonates. Deeply. A firework-over-the-Grand-Canyon sort of echo, and I think you hear it, too. It’s almost like we were created to know the One Who is life—almost like we’ve caught a sneaking glimpse that there is more to life than we can take hold of with our own hands. 

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So much of our culture seeks life, seeks purpose, seeks meaning with every desperate purchase or experience or relationship we dip our empty hearts into. In the words of the Preacher, “God has hidden eternity in our hearts”…we know there’s something more, something deeper, something greater, and so many human lives are spent trying to find that fountain of life but simultaneously rejecting Him. 

And so we say yes to all kinds of things, trying to finally discover that elusive thing of which we can say, “Aha, this is what I’ve been waiting for all along!” Our “yeses” are desperate. 

They’re desperate until we realize there’s one Yes that matters above all our other ones—the yes we say to Christ. Then our desperation turns to dancing. Our regrets turn to rejoicing. Once we have said yes to the One Who is life itself, nothing can take the purpose, the meaning, the joy of life from us. We are free, free to live life to the full as a loving, obedient son or daughter of God, and our “yeses” take on a whole new meaning and purpose. 

Christ said that He came that we might have life and have it to the full—not the empty shadows we can carve out of the rock of a broken world, but the kind that wells up out of His spring of eternal life. Now we realize that “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” is not simply a self-created emotional human experience, but rather to know Christ and to love Him with all our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strength. That love translates into action and obedience, into committing our wills and our hearts to saying yes to Christ. 

Sometimes those yeses are easy or light or fun. 

Sometimes they’re hard or deep or even painful. 

We’ve been given the ability to accept or deny the things that shape our loves and our lives. Because of that, sometimes it is very, very brave to say no to something. But other times, the bravest thing we can do is say yes to something God asks of us. 

When Yes Means the Unknown

I wish I related more to Abraham than to Gideon, but the truth is, I am 100% the one asking God for “just one more sign” before I take a shaking step into the threatening unknown. In contrast, Abraham’s journey into the wilderness is, hands-down, one of the most encouraging examples of courage and obedience I’ve ever read. God asks (then-Abram) to leave his home and extended family and to travel to the place God would show him. 

And Abram does not say, “Just one more sign, please?

Not, “What was that? One more time?” 

Not, “Can You tell me how that’s all going to work out?”

He just says, “Yes.” 

His yes literally meant packing up, leaving everything that was ever familiar, and heading he-didn’t-know-where. It meant facing the unknown with its daily hardships, unfamiliar threats, and irregular rhythms. He let go of the familiar to say yes to his God. 

Talk about inspiring. 

When it comes to the unknown, I like maps. And how-to’s. And step-by-step lists. Anything that gives me a deeper sense of security and well-being. But that’s not the sort of yes that Abraham gave God. He just said…yes. 

He let God hold the future (and by extension, though he perhaps didn’t know it fully then, the future of his family), and he went. 

It’s hard going into something when we don’t know how it’ll all end. It’s hard facing the unknown. But God is there in the midst of the unknown, and He is known. He is the same, yesterday and today and forever. I know from personal experience that it’s hard to say yes when we don’t know where God’s taking us. 

May we be brave enough to leave the unknown in God’s hands and say yes anyway. 

When Yes is Terrifying

Walking into a new church shouldn’t be that scary.
Meeting a new person for coffee shouldn’t be that scary. 
Going to a new school shouldn’t be that scary. 
Going on a first date shouldn’t be that scary. 
Traveling to a new country shouldn’t be that scary. 
Sharing the gospel shouldn’t be that scary. 
[insert whatever you’d like here] shouldn’t be that scary. 

After all, hasn’t God carried us through everything this far? Is His arm short? Will He fail us now? 

Yes, He has….and noooooo, He won’t fail me now…

And I am still terrified. Or at least heartily apprehensive.  

Maybe you’re less heartily apprehensive of such silly things than I am. But you’ve got your own list. : ) Even after we’ve seen God come through for us time and time and time again, even after we have seen Him be our Protector and Leader, saying yes is sometimes the scariest decision we have to face. When “yes” is inside our comfort zone, that’s not a big deal. Unfortunately, a lot of the “yeses” God asks of us are solidly OUTSIDE our comfort zones. Sharing the gospel. Traveling cross-country for school. Serving in another country. Getting married. Moving. Having or adopting a child. Facing past pain so we can heal. 

Yeah, yes can be terrifying. 

And it’s also the way we join God in His work. Be His hands and feet. Take His love to the hurting lives around us. 

When it comes to fear, I prefer not. Thanks but, no thanks. I have an active dislike of anxiety (and I’ve tasted enough of it to last me a lifetime). But for me, life has also proven that the idea “Everything you want is on the other side of fear” (George Addair) is actually pretty darn true. And pushing through the uncertainty or worry or fear has never not been worth the battle. 

Paul reminded Timothy that God gives a spirit not of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. I know from personal experience that it’s hard to say yes when our throats are tight and our hearts are pounding and our knees are a tad wobblier than they ought to be.

May we be brave enough to leave the fear in God’s hands and say yes anyway. 

When Yes Means the Ordinary

Some of the most inspiring yeses I’ve ever witnessed have come from those who, knowing the daily sacrifices and tireless effort and ingratitude and sometimes-monotonous rhythms they would experience by saying yes to God, said yesanyway. Yeah, yes can be hard when it’s facing something new or crazy or high-profile or dangerous. That can be scary. But it’s equally intimidating to say a yes no one else may ever know about. It’s hard to say yes to being faithful in simple, ordinary, everyday things. It’s hard to say yes to things without human glamor and glory attached to them. 

But ordinary yeses do the bulk of the world-moving and world-changing, despite the fact we seldom notice them. It is those who are extraordinary at ordinary things who end up having the most extraordinary “ripple effects” from their lives. 

I wonder sometimes how many people had a hand in my current existence and walk with Christ. How many stories intertwined over the centuries in countless lives to eventually touch mine? How many selfless acts? How many faithful witnesses? How many normal, everyday, even mundane experiences, all putting their thread into the tapestry? I wish I knew. I wish I knew them and their stories and all the things they did. 

But maybe instead it’s our responsibility to say yes to being our own threads in someone else’s tapestry, saying yes faithfully in the small, seemingly insignificant things God asks of us, knowing that they ripple into eternity and into who-knows how many other lives.

When it comes to being known for things, I prefer the glorious. (See recent post Brave Enough to Be Invisible.) Even when it means facing the unknown or facing fear, saying yes is easier when we know there’s some kind of reward or reputation attached to the act. But J.R.R. Tolkien hit on something deeper than fiction when he said, “I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay.”

It’s hard to say yes when we’re facing unrecognized acts of courage—the ordinary, the everyday, the “mundane”. 

May we be brave enough to leave the end of the story in God’s hands and say yes anyway. 

In the end, what we say yes and no to shapes the opportunities that shape us. The kind of legacy we leave. The kind of life we live. 

It may take great courage to move forward when God is asking us to say yes to the unknown, to the terrifying, to the ordinary. It’s hard to say yes when we don’t know the end of the story. But by saying yes to Christ and to what He asks of us, we will never “[come] to die [and] discover that [we] had not lived.” (HDT) Living is so dear—may we not find ourselves chasing the wrong things, saying yes to that which is not life. 

This week, may we be brave enough to say yes to the One Who is.