Best of Community: When Your “Yes” Holds You Back

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
1 THC mugs5 250

This week we are highlighting some favorite posts from our faithful community of writers.

Did I hear her right?

With the phone at my ear, my pulse quickened as she voiced her request: "Would you lead an ensemble at the Women’s Tea?"

I think I began to drool. Of all things music, ensemble singing is my favorite. I listened to the details she gave me, but my mind had already started making arrangements—whom to ask, which websites to search for sheet music, when and where and how often to rehearse. It was going to be beautiful.

But even as I mentally planned, I knew: God wanted me to say no.

"I’ll get back to you," I answered. For the next 36 hours I resisted God, rationalizing:

It’s only one night—not a regular commitment.

I can fit in rehearsals after home school.

We can rehearse at my house so I wouldn’t have to drive.

This is a golden opportunity! How could I not say yes?

At another time, our church was seeking a new music director. The previous year, I had planned several worship services while the regular guy was busy or on vacation, so I already knew our church's song selections, easily navigated around the church office, and even knew precisely which photocopier buttons to push. I can photocopy music scores with great deftness and agility, let me tell you. It was a perfect fit, a great opportunity. Golden.

Those weren't the only times I'd been tempted to say "yes" when God said "no." I was asked to write a weekly column for one of my favorite websites, on a topic I was already passionate about. Saying yes would require reordering my priorities, but I was willing to do that. After all, this was beyond golden. It was a platinum opportunity.

Several years ago a mentor told me, "Potential does not equal calling."

"It doesn't?" I replied, puzzled. Because if I'm not supposed to take on a new task, why did God give me the ability? Why all these golden opportunities if I'm just supposed to say no?

She then gave Jesus as an example, as she did in her book Between Walden and the Whirlwind: When people tried to take Jesus by force and make him king, he dodged them. He could have healed everyone, but, she wrote:

"Jesus did not heal everyone. He did not meet the needs of all the poor, or cast out all demons. I cannot meet every need I'm aware of. I cannot exploit every opportunity. … The goal of much that is written about life management is to enable us to do more in less time. But is this necessarily a desirable goal? Perhaps we need to get less done, but the right things."

Apparently, just because I can do something doesn't mean I should. When I try to operate at maximum capacity, I dilute my effectiveness, like sweet strawberry jam that you can't taste because it's spread too thin.

Ironically, it's not any reins but the lack of reins that holds me back in the work God calls me to. Calling me "Renaissance woman" wouldn't be a compliment but a finger pointing at my weakness. I need guided, controlled limits to keep me from doing everything, so I can be free to do my best work in the right places.

Today, in my primary role of home educator, I'll grade an Algebra 2 problem set and read about an 18th-century Chinese emperor. After school, I might write a chapter of my top-priority writing project. Yesterday I declined coordinating a new church ministry and resisted the temptation to write a song for someone. It felt good to get less done.

Monica Sharman is a home educator, freelance editor, and Assistant Editor at Tweetspeak Poetry. She shares what inspires her via twitter @monicasharman and writes children's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.