For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you … was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God …. (2Co 1:19-20)
It is very hard to say No, despite the fact that we say it all the time. The reason No is so hard is that it has no energy. Not doing something is an emptiness and carries no weight. It creates a vacuum that waits to be filled.
In observing my own life, I have become aware that I spend a lot of time saying No. There are things I don’t want to see, so I have to say No to them…things I don’t want to hear…things I don’t want to say or do or think…all to be met with No. A day spent in such wrestling is exhausting in the extreme. It is also frequently a path to failure. No has no energy and it places the will in a position of weakness. The will was created to will something, not nothing.
St. Paul’s observation that the promises of God are Yes, is a key to the daily struggle. The absence of sin isn’t the same thing as righteousness. Righteousness is a fullness and a presence. Sin itself is an emptiness and has the character of non-being. The spiritual life is fulfilled in righteousness – true rightness of being – living in the image of God.
A simple way of living this reality is to say Yes. If I do not want to do one thing, then to what do I say Yes? If I do not want to hear something, to what do my ears say Yes? And so forth.
And there is another step beyond. It is possible to say Yes repeatedly throughout the day. The simple phrase, “I say Yes to God,” carries a great deal of power. I have learned to make it a frequent confession in my day. I say Yes to God. I say Yes to my life. I say Yes to this problem. I say Yes to the mistakes I have made. It is a means of affirming that God is working all things together for my good – even my mistakes.
As I read this article, I had a feeling, a sensation that I cannot explain. With it came a change of perspective. It’s like saying yes to life, yes to getting older, yes to the truth, yes to my trucking costing me $1000.00 to be fixed, yes to my wife not being interested in Orthodoxy at this time, etc, etc,
Thank you Father for another illuminating post. It seems to me that “Yes” is life affirming. “No as you clearly state seems linked to the death we have been discussing.
This short writing, your essay, is the first I can whole heartedly agree, relate and say YES, YES, YES too. Praises to a living LIFE and GOD, as it is Jewish, Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox etc, and thank you God for your Love for all of them, because it is you in all of them.
Thank you Fr. Freeman for the short, powerful and meaningful words.
“For all God’s promises find their ‘Yes’ in Him” [RSV].
As a freshman in Georgetown, I was feeling tortured by The Gospel of Xian Atheism, by Nietzsche, by the “pale Galilean” and the gamut of higher criticism. Christ was supposedly the God of No.
I read this passage — this verse — and the puffery audibly deflated.
Thanks be to God.
I left off the follow up comment ck
I am the stay-at-home mother of several young children; I feel like “no” is the only word I say anymore.
Thank you for the timely post; it resonates with me on multiple levels.
Lou, Christ’s joy and strength to you! Be strong for all of us through Him!
Words Create worlds
Thank you …your reflection and the comments take me to the ‘full version’ of a prayer that has been a long term friend and trustworthy companion
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
I just saw the movie Florence Foster Jenkins which for some reason just went to my core. I think it was the Yes of her life (although not from a Christian perspective) that undid me. Her famous line: “They may say I cannot sing. But they can never say I did not sing,” made me want to say Yes to God and life in new ways. Thank you for this and all of your other posts. Father, bless.
This is a very short post, but its point and its practice are far more profound than some might think. It is a way of manifesting thanksgiving that is the most essential spiritual act that a human being can do.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “Anyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation.” I cannot begin to express how the practice of saying yes to God has salvaged whole days for me. The devil cannot stand it.
Pray for the people of Mulvane KS. Flash flooding last night and all of downtown turned into a river. Lots of property damage.
How would one explain, instruct, and encourage a ‘no-person’ to become a ‘yes person’?
Good question. I think it takes practice. Literally. I do this on and off over the course of the day. It’s like stopping to give God praise. I say, aloud or in my mind, “Yes, to God.” “Yes, to …” whatever else is going on. And I “will” my yes. I do not just say the words, I agree with them. It is like a repeated handing everything over to God. But, again, its strength is in its positive aspect. I am not just letting go of something, or trying not to do something, I am positively doing something. I am saying yes to God. I say yes to how He is running the universe. I say yes to how He is saving my life.
Sometimes, I simply sit with this and dwell on it, repeating as like praise. The heart begins to enter into it sometimes and this is very helpful. I find it to be a healing exercise.
This is difficult for us for a number of reasons. Our culture is very big on the notion that it/we can change the world. There are lots and lots of ways we get that message and internalize it. 1000 years ago, people largely did not believe this to be true. They knew that they lived in a world over which they had very little say. Such confessions were much easier in that setting, simply because their hearts had not constantly been filled with the false ideas of consumerism. Most of “we can change the world” messaging in our culture exists in order to sell us something. The cultural elites who own and manage our world aren’t about to give us the power to make any changes that they themselves do not wish us to have.
So, a person can start by saying yes to God?
Is it appropriate to say Yes in thanksgiving to God when temptations arise?
Oh heavens, yes. Sometimes thanksgiving is the only weapon that prospers against the temptation.
Lol. Now I know why I am so unhappy!
Does pride play a role in our saying yes to God?
Does cause and effect play a role in saying yes to God?
I imagine pride would play a role in whether we do or don’t do almost anything. As to cause and effect…our efforts do not cause God to do anything. God cannot be “caused” – He is utterly free.
I meant cause and effect on humans not God.
Can you give an example of what you mean by the question?
In regard to daily earthly causes/happenings.
What effect do they have on a man becoming a yes man or a no man?
I’m assume it is both positive and negative. But to what degree? And how does free-will effect the ‘reaction.?
How do causes and effects in the ‘literal world’ play into the ontological world?
Are the causes not important?
Are the effects only what matters when addressing ontology?
BTW, I prefer not to use the term “yes man” or “no man,” the former having a fairly pejorative meaning. 🙂
As for my own witness, cause and effect should have nothing to do with the offering of “Yes.” It is very much the same thing as the offering of thanks, which we are bidden to give “always and for all things.” Some find it difficult to give thanks in bad circumstances or for things they don’t like. Of course, anybody of any stripe or little faith would gladly give thanks for the things that please them – so there is actually little virtue in such circumstance – other than the force of refusing to give thanks even in the easiest of circumstances.
But giving thanks in the face of great adversity is deeply important. It confesses the goodness of God above all else. It is at the very heart of faith. It is reminiscent of the Three Young Men who, facing the torment of fire under the threat of the wicked King, proclaimed that God was able to save them, but if He didn’t, “Nevertheless, We will not bow down to your image.” Their “nevertheless” seems to me to be at the very heart of faith.
Free-will is certainly important. And though I’ve noted that many will find themselves struggling towards the consistency and wise choices that seem to mark others, we are certainly free to give thanks and to say “Yes” to God in all circumstances.
When I’m hearing confessions, and someone is constantly beaten down and losing their battle with a sin, above all I encourage them to give thanks in the face of it. The devil hates it when we give thanks, because he refuses to do so. More than once I’ve seen the tide of a spiritual battle turn by consistently giving thanks to God in the face of failure.
It is so primary that St. Paul says, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thes. 5:18
Father, I understand. ‘Yes man’ and ‘no man’ seem ok to me on this blog on this thread among these posts. I bet others will not like the that statement.
What terms would you prefer me to use. I will think and use your terms. Thanks.
I did 2-3 posts to try to explain what I was asking.
What a person does, says, feels, thinks, etc., does not alter the ontological present or ontological future. It happens, whatever. Is this correct?
So, a person needs to go with the ‘ontological flow’?
What is “ontological” is “what exists.” It is certain that our actions have consequences. However, the outcome of the “flow” has been clearly given to us in Scripture – God gathers all things together in one in Christ Jesus. The Christian can say that “all things work together for good.” I do my best, I make decisions, I make mistakes. But my mistakes, the mistakes of the whole world, are engaged in the saving work of Christ. Christ is God working for the salvation of all (the gathering together in one).
The question of hell, is, by some accounts, those who do not want to be gathered together “in one.” Some have said that hell is being in the presence of God and not wanting to be there.
But we cannot ourselves manage the outcome of history. It doesn’t mean we have no responsibility, but that “history” is beyond the reach of human beings. We should do the good that we can do. But like a farmer who plants his seed – we sow in hope. God has to bring things to whatever their fruition is to be.
Modern man has come to believe increasingly in his own power and that he is in charge of his future. The result has not been better futures, but anxious, angry people. To believe that we are in control of the world is idolatry.
The “ontological flow” could be described as “what God is doing.” It’s very good to go with what God is doing.
That’s what I was getting at with the term ‘ontological flow’.
Ontological theology makes more sense to me with the various angles we approach it.
Reading this just now, a couple of days after it was posted…. Very timely.
“No” seems to be the defining word of my life, at least of my marriage. It is not something I want to say yes to…
I converted, my husband didn’t (7th day Adventist). The girls, our daughters, ages 9 and 16, are baptized (Orthodox) but only rarely attend any church.
We live under one roof, not close, but not antagonistic.
But maybe I can say yes to God, to his working my salvation through it somehow. I haven’t managed the gratitude angle, maybe I can say yes.
This is, I think, one of the deepest and greatest spiritual struggles. You very much put your finger on it: “his working my salvation through it somehow.” God is indeed at work, always, everywhere and in everything working our salvation. I think the mystery of it only begins to reveal itself to us when we say Yes and give thanks.
The more I think about this short post, the more it seems to flow from an inexhaustible fountain of life. To have the courage to say Yes, and to continue to say it seems to be a very important matter, maybe the very central matter because it is about participating in the unity of all things. And it makes me think about psychological defenses, how the work to put them up in the first place was a positive thing, but then later they became my means of saying No to things in myself and the world. Mostly things in myself.
I struggle very much to be sincere in prayer, to sincerely give thanks, to sincerely say anything… so my spontaneous prayer ends up very often being a prayer for sincerity. And this ends up being a difficult road, to go deep enough in myself to find something sincere, something that I can affirm, some part of myself that I can recognize. Usually it is some feeling of self-disgust that, once felt, makes me feel very much as though I have disqualified myself from the Kingdom. I like that phrase “working my salvation through it somehow,” because then I find that the real work all along was in bringing those alienated feelings to the light and letting them be incorporated into my self.
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like psychobabble. I take a lot of comfort knowing that Christ has already plumbed the depths of my heart.
Maria B’s comment has encouraged me to say something. I too have a family situation not unlike what she describes. My wife is not interested at all in faith and church. I try as I can to teach and influence our three young children, but the secular ways of this world and their mother are so strong. I will struggle to give thanks and glory to god for my dysfunctional marriage and loneliness, saying yes, for he is working for my (and my family’s) salvation. Father, thank you a million times for this teaching ministry. God Bless.
To paraphrase one of the Fathers (on reading the Scriptures): “There is only one thing more dangerous (and costly) than saying yes to God (though saying yes is the only real source of joy and a lasting peace), and that is saying no!” In the latter case, this cost is frequently deferred for some time. This is, undoubtedly, why the enemy goes to such great lengths to distract and numb us from the cost of saying no by offering us his exceedingly illusory and ephemeral counterfeits to joy and real security . . . until it is too late! May God give us all grace to answer yes and give thanks without hesitation every time!
As I think about this thread and some of the posts and the world around me, I realize how blessed I truly am.
Still the noes tug and yank me down. I need to practice more saying yes to God.
The more I learn to say yes to God, the more the world/enemy says no to me.
And the battle continues on and on. I long for the day when it will all be yes.
Terry said “I long for the day when it will all be yes.”
Amen Terry. Amen!
A somewhat random trip to the archives of this blog is always a fruitful endeavor.
Thank you Maria B. and Tom H. I am glad not to find myself alone, as my situation is similar to yours. It’s been long and hard experience of both grace and effort to feel any peace about it, but I am there now most of the time and so, so grateful. Acceptance of the situation is a big part of “yes” for me.
and so I said “yes” to my idea of translating this piece of wisdom into French 😉
Reader Jean-Michel, Rocor, Belgium