Why Checking “YES” to Interruption’s Invitation is Always the Best Choice

checking yes w text

My last post was September 10th. Today is September 26th. Days don’t always go as planned — and that is both hard and good. These many days without much writing has made me feel like I’m walking around with part of me missing.

I started this post days ago. And after revising it for an hour and a half this morning with a headache-tinged hopefulness, I lost all of my edits right before I went to publish. Like, really good edits that I could not possibly replicate. #writerproblems

So I began again, literally in tears as I tried to make a go of this post for the umpteenth time. The irony of the title isn’t lost on me. It’s like the WordPress gods played a cruel joke to see if I really believe my own words. Losing one’s best work can make a girl come close to losing her religion. I almost quit. But I’m so glad I didn’t. In the end I was able to grab hold of a truth far deeper than the one which almost got published.

It’s the story of my life, losing something I feel entitled to so that something better and truer can grow up in its place.

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But back to the last few writer-less weeks. Daily I’ve been reminded that I don’t have as much control as I think I do. I make my plans and then the day arrives and says Just kidding. 

I don’t know about you but I tend to think of the unplanned as either interruption or happy adventure, depending on what the unplanned thing is. But sometimes they’re not at either end of the pendulum.

When the unplanned comes knocking, I find that I hold my breath until “real life” resumes. It’s like I’m waiting for normalcy to return before I can exhale and really live.

I’m learning, however, that the unplanned life is precisely my real life. So why do I tend to think of it as interruption?

The additional tests.

The feverish kid.

The unexpected needs.

The big fat expense we didn’t budget.

The loved one I desperately want to help.

The stupid fight that came out of nowhere and has me wrecked.

The Walmart tire center. Two days in a row.

The last-minute text that my home is going to show in 96 minutes and I have an entire house to tidy and a curtain rod snapped clean in half and dangling by a screw and pee sheets to wash.

Who just wrote a series on “Grace in the New Rhythms?” Was it me? Because I don’t know anyone by the name of Rhythm or Routine right now. There hasn’t been any sustained days of normalcy in a few weeks.

But there have been many days of many graces and many gifts.

And in the midst of this grace {though we don’t like to think of it as grace}, I’m learning to receive the unplanned days of real life. I’m learning to let go of my big self and my big plans. It hurts a little. Sometimes it hurts a lot.

God is showing me the desires I hold too tightly and also teaching me that I can do hard things. He’s revealing that there are days when I’m privileged to do the work that makes me come alive and that there are days when I’m privileged to do the work that makes me doubt my worth altogether. I’ve questioned every ounce of my sufficiency as a mother, as a wife, and as a friend. I’ve cried out for a whole lot of help. I’ve been not enough in every way possible.

But here’s the thing. I keep showing up. I keep making the plans.

And I keep close the cup of grace and acceptance that allows me to drink deeply when different agendas come my way. I’m learning to say, This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. And it is good. 

Every day I have a choice. I can receive the unexpected as a gift to unwrap or a hardship to resent.

You’d be surprised at what a difference it makes, even for this glass-half-empty girl.

Just like optimism, service doesn’t come very naturally to me. As in, I once took an extensive personality test and being a “helper” is the furthest thing down on the list. It means that I don’t need to be needed. Some people thrive on being needed. I’m actually afraid of it. It means that I’d probably make a terrible nurse or mother. Oh wait, too late for that last one. {Though it does explain why the phrase, I need everyone to just stop needing me for an hour! has been uttered in our house five or a hundred times.}

But service isn’t necessarily about natural ability. Rather, it’s about availability. It’s about showing up and receiving the gift of giving.

I know what you may be thinking. I can’t say yes to everything. If I give every time there’s an opportunity, that’s not wise. God’s given me talents and gifts and limited resources and I’m to use them strategically. Don’t you always say that “Every yes is also a no?”

You’re right. All things being equal, you’re right. But there are times each day when things turn a bit upside down {from our perspective} and we throw plans and “no” out the window and say “yes” to living a bit beyond ourselves. It’s not about volunteerism or ministry necessarily. It’s a state of mind more than anything, a way that we approach and receive what we might not have chosen. It’s as simple as giving up my writing with peace and acceptance for a couple of weeks because there are people and needs that matter more. Or simply giving up my cherished plans for the evening because my child needs me. Often it’s small-scale but sometimes it’s major. I can’t give you a formula. I can’t tell you how you’ll know. I can only tell you that God is faithful to lead us.

Proverbs 16:9 says this:

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

{The New Living Marian Translation of that verse is this: Make your plans but hold them loosely. God is the boss of your life.}

And within the doubt, indecision, and imperfect choices, we are surely upheld by grace. There’s still trial and error, even within giving and service. And that’s okay. We learn by doing — by getting it right and getting it wrong and adjusting decisions accordingly the next time.

Maybe this season you’re in is all routine and predictability. Or maybe it’s all crazy. Perhaps it’s a mingling of both and you feel like you can’t get as sure and steady on your feet as you’d like. Maybe you’re “waiting to exhale.”

May I suggest that it’s time to go ahead and let it out? Yep. Right now. On this very day. You have nothing to lose but that furrowed brow and unnecessary tension.

Whether it’s a day that unfolds with precision and obvious beauty or a day that unfolds with devastation and an ash-covered, barely-there loveliness that you have to squint to see, you still have a choice. You’re still presented with possibility.

squinting girls

Receive or resent?

Too often I’ve chosen the latter. Guess where that’s gotten me? Precisely nowhere. I’ve missed the gifts of hope, redemption, letting go, acceptance, waiting, and an opportunity to love and serve those right in front of me.

But it’s never too late to start choosing differently.

I’ve quoted these words before but they bear repeating. Emily Freeman says this about showing up in our everyday with eyes open and hearts willing.

Learning to live like an artist means opening your eyes to where you live right now, to see who stands around you, and to uncover how you might offer what is most alive in you today into the life of someone else–for their benefit and for God’s glory.

From the book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

 

I really do long to see each and every day — whether I’m at my best or whether I’m wholly dependent on a strength and grace outside myself — as my real life.

I want to courageously walk the road of audacious gratitude instead of stumbling down the well-worn path of resentment.

I want to die to myself — to my big plans and my big needs and my big claims that I deserve “more” or different than what I currently have.

Do you want these things too? A life that learns to live the discipline of surrender, love, and acceptance?

Well, I found the secret.

You have to die.

{Raise your hand if you’re still glad you tuned in for this uplifting and encouraging post.}

Yesterday a friend reminded me that life can only come out of death. I can’t stop thinking about it. Because it’s true. Being a life-giving source to those around me requires certain death. I wish I could put in more palatable terms but I can’t.

A seed dies before it brings forth new life. A mother bleeds and suffers before the baby can be born. Our own selfishness has to be snuffed out before we can love and nurture with reckless abandon.

A perfect, innocent man had to die a cruel death on a cross in order to save the world. His death is my life — past, present, and future.

I don’t mean to be morbid but every interruption or disappointment hands us a personal invitation. And each answer is a death sentence in its own way.

Yes, I will receive this. I’ll die a small death today. Or even a big one. It’s the only way real life can spring forth.

No, I will resent this. My agenda matters more than this opportunity for redemption and beauty. And because I choose not to die to self, I’ll die a different death, a slow and painful one, poisoned by my own bitterness, ingratitude, and refusal. 

The yes or no makes it sound so simple. And it is. But simple is never to be confused with easy. We desperately need a strength outside of ourselves for this one. We need it every single day and for every single death, big or small.

Jesus said that his followers must take up their cross daily and follow him.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. {Luke 9:24}

For those who are in Christ, we have the strength already. It’s not a formula or a magical incantation. It’s a Person. It’s Jesus, the One who died so that we might live. The One who died so that we may also learn to die, many thousands of times, in order that we might live more fully and that we might be more fully alive for others.

This is redemption. And it comes around every day, asking to be seen and touched and tasted. It shows up in disappointment and in the unplanned. It shows up when we’re caught off guard and exhausted. It shows up in need and annoyance and downright beggary. It shows up in the fear and in the fights.

At first glance, it may not be pretty. Will you look for it anyway? Will you see the invitation that lies just beneath the frustration or even the devastation?

Will you say, Yes, I’ll die this death, that I might live full and free and flat-out shocked by the transformed beauty I almost missed?

Will you seek redemption along with me and bask in the unlikeliest surprise of what it just might yield?

 

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Comments

  1. says

    aahck I wish we didn’t have to die either way… 😛 whenever I choose yes it always makes me happier {maybe not at first lol}, and I feel better in the long run. you are oh so right about saying no killing us a horrible slow death. I totally need this reminder, because, yes is harder short term.
    thank you Marian! :)

  2. Anita says

    Just what I needed today, dear friend. Our life has recently been turned upside down and we showed up. Now the hard part is staying there without being resentful. For more than a few years, my mantra has been, “I am blessed to be available”. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

  3. says

    Good stuff, my friend. The part I needed so much right now is this:

    “I want to courageously walk the road of audacious gratitude instead of stumbling down the well-worn path of resentment.”

    Thank you.

  4. Andrea says

    Wow…this is exactly what I was mulling over today on my run…which turned out to be more of a walk! I have come forward to help in various ways lately, but grumble every time something inevitably interrupts my perfect plans. I’m constantly yearning for the time “when everything will be normal.” As my husband likes to remind me, this is normal. Thank you for the profound reminder that “our own selfishness has to be snuffed out before we can love and nurture with reckless abandon.” After missing your blog for many months, I am grateful to have found you once again. What a gifted, truth-seeking writer!

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