Thursday, December 5, 2013

flaming dresses and dancing sermons

If we undertake this task with greater faithfulness, perhaps we will realize that what we sometimes consider a stumbling block is rather a rock that we can step on.
--Mama T

Let's just face it: nobody likes saying No.
Unless you're in a perverse mood, in which case, responding to everything and everybody with a decided and iron-willed "No" is the most deliciously satisfying thing in the world.
But, I think it's fair for us all to take a moment to admit that saying Yes is more fundamentally joyful than saying No.
Saying Yes is more thrilling, more delightful, somehow more in tune with our human nature.
We do not want to say no.
And I think this is at the heart of why human beings can sometimes, indeed fairly frequently, resent The Rules. Because often The Rules seem to be a list of No's.
And a list of No's is, while often understandable and helpful, always sort of grating, like a single fingernail squeaking across a chalkboard.

This is the largest problem, I find, with purity.
Because purity, we often see, as saying no after no after no after no.
But there's something about a human being's heart that desires to say yes. We are beings burning to acquiesce.
"Human beings," Professor Cyril O'Regan said one day in class, "are longing to belong." And we are never quite sure how to belong. But we know that union comes through, not a no, but a yes. Yeses are what unite people. And we are thirsting for union. So we yearn to say yes; we are craving to find the union in which we will belong.

One of the lessons that my mother and almost every mentor I have ever had has tried to impress upon me is the skill of saying no.
For, as a person who loves to say yes, I would often say yes to every opportunity that flew into my inbox on the wings of an email from a various club or organization.
An invitation to that meeting, or this dinner, or that one event.
In an incessant and insatiable longing for belonging, I would adore saying yes to everything and everybody.
This is called untempered enthusiasm, and while there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, it leads to lack of sleep, exhaustion, and extreme grouchiness.
My mother, in teaching me to say no, was not trying to curb my enthusiasm, or twist my nature from a yes-loving creature into a no-loving creature. 
Rather, she was helping me to face the fact that, as a human being, I am necessarily finite. Which means I have a limited amount of time, energy, and Yeses.
I cannot say yes to everything. 
Because, you see, a yes is a choice.
And while there is an infinity of good things in the world to choose from, I am not infinite, and so I cannot choose them all.
If I am to say yes to something, I must, by necessity, say no to something else.
This is called making a choice, and although we are human beings enamored with choices and our own power to make them, making choices isn't always very fun. Often it is sort of dull and un-glamorous. It is a chore and not a delight.
Sometimes it is even rather painful.

We are not people of no's, but of a Yes.
A single, all-encompassing Yes.
And the thing about our hearts is that they have a pure nature, a singleness of purpose in their nature. We can try and try and try, but we will never succeed in splitting our heart: we have not learnt how to teach it to say both yes and no.
Once you have said yes, then you must pursue that yes.
It will maybe mean saying no after no after no to many other things--perhaps to many things which is would seem more glamorous and desirable and thrilling to say yes to.
To your little heart, burning and craving for the union of yes, saying no is exhausting.

If we first and foremost desire belonging, yearning for union that can only be achieved through a yes, then the joy of saying yes must be worth the price of saying no.

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