I’ve said yes to a lot of things.
In fact, I’ve said yes to so many things, I somehow became known as a Yes Woman. Babysitting and Sunday schools, serving tea and meal clean up, bulletin and powerpoint designs, proofreading and website admin, garden pruning and parents association. If you had asked me to do anything in our first few years of ministry, I would’ve answered in the affirmative. I wanted to be used, anywhere and in any way, and I was anxious to send news home of all these needs that had been answered through me.
I didn’t feel called to bulletin making, but I was good at it. A lifetime in traditional church combined with entry-level training in graphic design came to good use on the field. It wasn’t my gifting, but I did it… because I could.
I didn’t feel called to teaching a children’s Sunday school class, but I was a young mom and it was my turn in the rotation at our new young church. It wasn’t my gifting, but I did it… because I felt like I had to.
I didn’t feel called to website administration, but if I didn’t do it, who would? It wasn’t my gifting, but…
All those yeses left the Spirit within me gasping for air. I said yes so much to so many things because I was afraid to say no. And in doing that, I squelched whatever gifting I had deep down inside, lying in dormant for future use.
Maybe one day after I pay my dues, I thought, I’ll be able to do the things I feel called to do. Maybe one day I’ll earn the right to pursue a ministry I’m gifted in.
That day never came. Or, at least, not in the way I thought it would.
Our long home assignment allowed me to time wait on the Lord, to be mentored by wise women of all ages who saw God’s design in me. My husband and I pursued training and extensive personality tests highlighting our needs, as well as our strengths. All these years of trial and error (and a few glorious victories) culminated in the realization that sometimes our practical skills aren’t necessarily aligned with our spiritual giftings.
I could do clerical or children’s work, but they weren’t supernaturally embedded within my heart and mind. These skills may get the job done, but they didn’t ensure the ministry would thrive. I might never know if they bore much fruit, but I know my soul felt dry and barren.
Often there are times when we really do need to say yes to things we aren’t gifted at. This is especially true overseas, where the resource pool may be limited. But saying yes to some things often means saying no to others. And it takes practice, confidence and courage to say no to one good thing so you can say yes to the better thing.
This November I went on one of those amazing women’s retreats where you sit by the ocean and journal, coming together with other cross-cultural women for contemplative worship, local cuisine and really good wine. During our time together, we focused on our pearl of great value, as mentioned in Matthew 13:44-46.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
We meditated on the pearl we have in Jesus and the Kingdom He offers us. And we considered the pearl of great value He has placed inside each of us. Our thing. That to which we have been called, gifted, designed for.
In the process of discovering that “pearl,” we also realized the cost: selling that field, giving away all we own, saying no to some good things in order to say yes to God’s best.
If you are in the uncomfortable place of relying on your skills but mishandling your giftings, let these questions guide your yeses:
What am I passionate about?
What makes me angry?
What do I wake up thinking about every morning?
In what moments do I most feel the fruits of the Spirit?
What do I need to give up in order to enjoy the treasures God has for me?
I’m back in a kids’ Sunday school class again, but this time is different. I can sit criss-cross applesauce with those rugrats little blessings because pursuing the gifts God has chosen for me (things like writing, relationships and worship) have renewed my spiritual strength and filled my heart with a bounty of treasures. Treasures I’m now able to give away.
Oh, I’ve said yes to some good things, and maybe some not so good things. And now, I’m handing out a few no’s… and saying yes to so much more.