Tuesday, March 10

Why We Say No: Conviction vs. Personal Preference


I always know it's time for me to settle down and write something in this space when a topic won't leave my thoughts and it's not one that is specific to moms. I spend a lot of time writing and talking about mom stuff right here. But there's a lot of non-mom stuff I like to talk and write about too.

Today's topic is just that. It's one that won't go away and builds a fire in my belly producing lots of strong feelings, should-have's, and hope-to's.

Here's the thing. There are certain words spoken in conversations with friends (or even strangers) that cause me to freeze up. I go completely blank. In the moment, no coherent thoughts or words can get in or out. For a girl who isn't speechless all that often, this is big.

In those moments from the time the words leave the other person's mouth, until the time I'm supposed to respond, I become instantly afraid of appearing holier than thou or stepping on toes, so I freeze and retreat like a turtle popping back into his shell. I usually know just what I'd like to say in response, but I just can't eek it out in a loving and intelligent way (which is the goal), so I say nothing. When I'm back home or have hung up the phone I finally have the words. Of course. But it feels too late.

I've never called the person up to say, "Uh, yeah... you know how you said ___________? Well, I have some thoughts." I totally could say that. I know. But I don't. There's that whole thing where the other person might feel badly that I've spent some time thinking poorly of them or the words they spoke. It's quite possible that I think too much. Quite possible.

So this is me processing my not speaking up and an introduction to what sort of conversation it is that drives me to speechlessness. There's an important spiritual truth here that we all need to hear if you'll stick around.

Are you exhausted by me yet? 

I'll do my best to articulate what in the world I'm talking about. Here's an example:

Person A says, "I'd really like to have more children, but we wouldn't be able to fit in our current vehicle anymore if we did, and I really like what I'm driving right now. So no more children for us!"

*The names and circumstances have been changed to protect the identity of Person A.*

Person B (Me) freezes, laughs awkwardly and politely, while sputtering something like, "Yeah..." or "Hmmph..." while two questions begin playing ping-pong in my head as I continue to smile and nod all the while upset at myself for not asking Person A to explain where God's plan fits among their preferences:

1. Have you thought about asking God what He thinks?

2. Have you considered that God's plan for your life is so much more important than your comfort zone or view of a perfect life?

While I may be a really nice person, I still have some strong opinions, and disregarding God's possible plan for your life just because it might make you uncomfortable is one of my hot buttons.

With that said, what I'd really like to say out loud in response, and hopefully the next time I'll be in my right mind to press the unsuspecting person to consider this: "Has God placed a conviction in your heart about this, or is this a matter of personal preference?"

It seems easy enough. But it isn't for me. Being more bold in this area is something I desire.

If we are living our lives as Spirit-led children of God, it is impossible to answer a sure forever Yes or No about any circumstance or decision.

If we are Spirit-led children of God, we need to make sure we are letting the Spirit lead in our decision-making. Our personal preferences are bossy. They like to push us around and remind us of our fears. None of us likes to be bossed around, but if we're letting our preferences take precedence, we're getting bossed and fear wins.

Jeremy and I are often asked if we're "done" giving birth to or adopting children. I can imagine one would be curious, so I welcome the chance to respond.

Even though the eight kids I'm already mothering stretch me to the furthest reaches day in and day out, I can't solidly say Yes or No. I honestly don't desire more children at this point. But that's not to say God won't place another child before us and say, "He's yours." It's happened a couple times before in the most surprising fashion, so who's to say it won't happen again? I can't say we're "done" with a clear conscience, and I'm not about to say No to God's will for me or my family if I can help it.

God is a master at changing our desires to match His will. And I'm good with that. So I'm good with not knowing, because I trust His plan.

I want God's will more than I want my comfort. Though secretly I might be praying that pleading prayer from the Garden of Gethsemane. You know, the one that goes, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; ..." 

Shoot. Jesus doesn't stop there. He continues, "... nevertheless (or nevermind me) not as I will, but as you will."

I want to be like Jesus. He basically says, "Nevermind me, I want what you want, God. I'm willing."

If we're following Christ, we need to be open to the path we never imagined. Even a path we might not want or prefer. Christ never wanted suffering, death, or to bear the unbearable weight of our sins, but He allowed Himself to walk that path because it's what the Father asked of Him. He yielded. He took His discomfort and shoved it aside.

Christians spend a lot of time talking about emulating Christ, but then sometimes aren't willing to walk into the uncomfortable and scary when certain circumstances present themselves. "Surely God wouldn't want me unhappy. So... No."

He certainly would love for you to be happy (contented, really), but He's more concerned about you being holy. Suffering and selflessness has a way of molding us into the person He had in mind for us all along.

Don't we desperately want to be the person He had in mind when He dreamed us up?

These words are coming from me as a friend who has struggled down the path of fear and preference and has learned there is nothing there for us. Nothing. The path of hope is one paved by walking in the Spirit.

That means we follow where He leads not knowing exactly where we're going. It's okay that we don't have all the answers, because we don't yet know all the questions.