I should have said no.
But when I said yes, I felt POWERFUL.
I felt NEEDED.
I felt SOUGHT AFTER.
I felt DESIRED.
Now, I just feel TIRED.
I tend to bite off more than I can chew. That’s something my mother told me long ago when I was a teenager. Constantly trying to get me to cut back on commitments, Dolores was right! I tend to bite off more than I can chew.
It catches up to me sometimes…and that is when God is the most gentle with me.
As a working Catholic mom, I don’t always get asked to do too much ministry, as many discern for me that with my hectic schedule, there is no way I could take on a demanding ministry. So, that is when I volunteer my services, even when I have no time.
Then it all comes to a head…or it all comes crashing down as the responsibilities become such a burden rather than a joy to serve the Lord.
Last week, my spiritual director made it very easy for me. He said I had to pull away from my ministries to focus on my primary vocation of wife and mother. He was right. I was biting off more than I could chew, and as a result, my primary role of wife and mother suffered. They needed me at home, not at the next bake sale or youth night. Those things in and of themselves are incredible ways to serve the Lord, but the Lord did not need me to say “Yes” this time. I had discerned incorrectly. I was being reminded to say, “No.”
In Lisa Hendey’s book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living, she has a chapter in the book entitled, “The Grace of No.” At first, I avoided this chapter. I knew what it was going to say. It was going to say I bite off more than I can chew. Reading the other chapters, I was spiritually high-fiving God for making me as a woman who was receptive and open to all He was calling me to, but this chapter was going to be difficult for me to read.
And I knew why. This chapter was going to call me to deeper discernment in my YES, and I might have to take action on what I had previously said yes to. That could lead to disappointment from others. I would be left feeling drained and without a ministry. It was too much for me to bear.
But God called after me, night after night of the book laying on the nightstand. My husband would say, “Hey, aren’t you supposed to finish that book, Mary?” Many Scripture passages I read would beckon to me to read the chapter.
So I read the chapter. I listened to my spiritual director.
The gentleness of God calling me into a fuller understanding of my primary vocation of wife and mother was unlike any other tug I have felt in my life. He reminded me of His unique call for my life – one which encompassed caring for my family in a very particular way on their road to Heaven. It may one day involve youth ministry and bake sales, but for now, it means my presence in significant ways to the hubs and the kids.
The chapter on the grace of No reminds us to discern carefully, even those things which are holy and attractive, before saying YES. When we say YES to any and all that is asked of us, we may miss the big call from God, which usually comes in the still small voice. The virtue of gratitude might be helpful to develop here as we seek to do God’s will, thanking Him first and foremost for all in our lives, rather than compare ourselves to others.
In this chapter, Lisa describes a pastor’s advice to his congregation, when talking about that still small voice:
“…the sense that we need to take a step back may be God’s way of calling us to more prayer over the situation. When we skip the discernment and jump in headlong because we fear saying no, we may be walking away from God’s plan for us, missing an important yes.” (p. 116).
Thanks for the reminder, friend.
One of the beautiful qualities of women is our gift of receptivity – being open and ready. But being open and ready does not need to look like conquering the world. It can look like embracing what the Lord has called you to first and foremost, saying YES to your vocation. That will be enough.
If something else looks attractive and you believe you are ready to say yes, consider the following:
1. Pray first. Ask the Lord to reveal to you His thoughts on this opportunity. Listen through prayer to the still small voice.
2. Place a time limit on the discernment. Consider the nature of the opportunity for the time allowed in discernment. I have found if I do not place a time limit on discernment activity, confusion sets in with a lengthy process.
3. Consider your primary vocation first. Will this new commitment honor your vocation or detract from your responsibilities? If the answer is detraction (even for this season in your vocation), think carefully about your “yes.”
4. If you are a working Catholic mom, will this opportunity pull you away from the second part of your vocation to provide for your family? Or, will this opportunity assist you in taking care of your family?
5. Are there special circumstances to consider in your answer? For example, is there a particular need in your family right now that needs your attention? Is there a special skill you have that no one else has in the community? Pray carefully through your special circumstances.
God bless you on your journey. The grace of no is powerful. The grace of yes is beautiful. The Grace of Yes by Lisa Hendey is a great read for this holiday and liturgical season. It is filled with practicality and faith-filled discernment. I highly recommend it. Peace to you all.