Fear Leads to the Road of “Yes, BUT…”

Today, I continue a series about a journey of listening prayerfully (See April 9, 16, 19 & 23 archives).

     In my journey of listening prayer, I’ve discovered there will be times I come to a juncture and must decide which road I’ll take.

     The Road of “Yes, BUT…” or

     The Road of “Yes, WHAT…”

     In my experience of counseling, I’ve encountered many folks who insist on taking the road of “Yes, but…”

     You’ve probably experienced this. You listen intently, suggest an option you know is solid, and wilt when the person you care about says, “Well, Yes, but…”

     Even though “Yes, but…” answers frustrate, I try to remember that way too often, I have chosen the same road. God’s response has always been extending a hand of grace. It is with that same spirit of grace I write today’s post.

     One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. In the last stanza, Frost says…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

     There are many reasons we choose the road of “Yes, BUT…” A common thread, however, is fear. The enemy of our soul has a strategic plan for keeping us from becoming the person and accomplishing the good work God designed for us to be and do. Fear is a formidable tactic.

     Three fears are common:

     First, fear of the unknown. Even if I don’t like where it takes me, the road I know is predictable and often feels comfortable.

     Hebrews 11:1 lets us know the essence of faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith journeys aren’t always comfortable and predictable.

     When the Lord called Abram, He said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) The journey of listening prayer will undoubtedly take us to places requiring us to let go of a certain comforts and predictability.

     The path of “Yes, BUT… that’s motivated by fear often sounds something like this: “Yes, BUT…What if…?” In my critical stress response training, I learned anticipatory stress—or, as I call it, “What if…Stress”–is common, especially following unexpected loss or trauma.

     Although understandable, continuing to insist on taking the path of “Yes, BUT…” keeps us from moving into the new land our Heavenly Father wants to lead us.

     Secondly, there’s fear of inadequacy, a fear most of us seem to battle regularly.

     “Yes, BUT’s” motivated by fear of inadequacy are often followed by an “I’m too…” statement:

     “Yes, BUT, I’m…

          too old,

                too young,

                     too smart,

                         too dumb,

                              too damaged,

                                   too over-qualified….

     The list goes on and on.

     Romans 12 is a practical portion of Scripture, and I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s modern English translation in The Message:

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

     Assessing honestly, prayerfully, humbly and gratefully my personality, strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities, habits, history, tendencies, relationships and resources honors the design God gave me and helps reveal “Yes, BUT, I’m too…” lies I believe.

     Lastly, there’s fear of failure.

     I love David’s vulnerability. Often in the psalms, he prays, “Lord, let me not be put to shame!” Steps of faith into the unfamiliar require risk. Risk taking holds a potential of humiliation.

     I try to convince myself failures are merely opportunities to grow and learn, but honestly, fear of being embarrassed scares me.

     To counteract fear, I remind myself often God is never the source of incapacitating fear. Paul reminded his young friend, Timothy, of this in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV): “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

     Ignatius laid down his sword at the Lady of Montserrat signifying his absolute devotion to follow Christ. I visited this site while in Spain, and our group leader suggested we “lay down” our symbolic “swords.” One of mine was the “sword” of fear.

While this may be a lifelong challenge, I know I can grow as I focus on God’s love, learning what the disciple, John realized, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear….” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

What about you?

  • What are fears that cause you to take roads of “Yes, BUT…”?
  • How might the truths of Scripture used in today’s post help you combat those fears?

Until next time, may we gain new courage for our journeys…

Sue Reeve

When Ron and I were in Israel, quite by chance, we met a lovely young couple—Eli and Lena—who spent most of one day showing us around Tel Aviv. During their recent trip to Japan, they remembered my obsession with path photos and sent several. I’m calling these two path pictures, “The Roads of Yes, BUT…” Thanks so much, Eli and Lena, for thinking of us

Listening Prayerfully – Learning from Those Who’ve Gone Before…

Today’s post is the fourth in a series about a journey of listening prayerfully (See April 9, 16 & 19 archives). These posts include contents of a devotional talk I made to my travel group during our amazing educational pilgrimage as well as additional insights learned during the time I was in Spain.

Continuing from last time…

     As I’ve journeyed into the adventure of prayer, learning to listen for and discern the voice of God, I’ve discovered there will be times when I come to a juncture in my journey, and I must decide which road I’ll take. I call these roads,

     The road of “Yes, BUT…” or

     The road of “Yes, WHAT…”

     I believe my favorite time in Spain was the day we spent in Ávila where we focused our attention on the 16th Century saint, Teresa of Ávila, also known as Teresa de Jesus. Teresa chose the road or “Yes, WHAT…” often and has much to teach this 21st Century gal. Today, I want to honor her memory by sharing a few facts I learned about her during my pilgrimage.

     Before I begin my praises of a woman I believe is praiseworthy, I’d like to say I’m not deifying Teresa. Like every man or woman who’s lived on this earth—except Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us)—she was flawed.

     As a pastoral counselor, I am privileged to help guide people to answers the Holy Spirit has already implanted within them. In a process of discovery, it’s not unusual for the one being helped to give too much credit to the helper. I’m always quick to say I’m a very flawed woman loved by a VERY good and gracious God.

     All credit for success in my spiritual journey belongs to God. I have a feeling Teresa would agree with me. While she’d be pleased to know her influence made a difference, I also believe she would credit God for every gift she possessed, every opportunity she was given and every insight she gained.

     I also imagine, like each of us who comes to a juncture and must choose which road to take, a tug-of- war occurred as Teresa wrestled with her free will. God wants—and will reward—obedience, but God never forced her and will not force you or me to take the most God-honoring path.

     Teresa was born in 1515. Her parents were devout and loving. She was close to her mother, who died when she was 14 years old. I’ve heard psychologists say early teens are the most difficult age for a daughter to lose her mother or a son his father. Traumatic incidents often become means we allow to define us. To do otherwise, demands a choice. I can take the road of “Yes, BUT…,” avoiding, stuffing, masking or using pain as an excuse. Or, I can choose the road of “Yes, WHAT…,” seeking help to understand the impact and implication of the pain, allowing it to make me stronger, more resilient and empowered to help others.

     When Teresa was a child, girls were not taught to read nor write. Teresa’s parents chose a different path, going against cultural norms. Teresa was well educated and well read. Years later, when Teresa founded a convent, she too was willing to buck the system, choosing a different “road,” insisting all nuns would be taught to read and write.

     As an adult, when Teresa wrote to the Bishop, she made deliberate grammatical and spelling errors because she knew if she wrote too skillfully, the Bishop wouldn’t find her communications believable because of bias related to a woman’s intellectual ability. While some may call her behavior lying, I see it as strategic cunning, a willingness to choose the road of humility rather than pride to advocate most effectively for those she was called to serve.

     Teresa suffered extreme physical pain and illness. It’s easy to choose the road of self-pity and complaining during such times. Physical and emotional energy required to manage pain is exhausting. Instead of complaining, though, during her dark, bedridden season, Teresa allowed suffering to drive her more deeply into God’s Spirit. Later in life, even though she lived with chronic pain, Teresa kept moving, traveling many miles by foot to minister.

          When Teresa entered the convent, there was a type of caste system in place for nuns. Those with financial means were afforded the opportunity to be supported by their families. They enjoyed nice apartments and choice food. Poor nuns, however, were required to beg for food. Even though Teresa was from an affluent family, she refused to choose the road of entitlement and forbade this practice in the convent she founded. Every sister was treated in the same way. Each lived simply within their religious community.

     There’s more I’d like to share with you about Teresa of Ávila, but this post is already too long! We’ll discuss more soon. I hope you’re learning to appreciate this remarkable woman!

This was my favorite statue of Teresa depicting her writing a book of prayers, which was eventually used by religious orders throughout Spain. This photograph encourages me to get to work on a devotional book I believe God wants me to write. If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your prayers in this endeavor. I’m stuck at the juncture and can think of lots of reasons to choose the road of “YES, BUT…!”

What about you?

  • Can you think of a time when you came to a juncture in your journey of faith and bucked the system rather than accepting status quo?
  • What did you learn because of the choice you made?
  • What part of Teresa’s story speaks most deeply to your soul? Why? What action step is God asking you to take as a result?

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

Listening Prayerfully—Which Road Will I Choose?

Today’s post is the third in a series about a journey of listening prayerfully (See April 9 & April 16 archives). These posts include contents of a devotional talk I made to my travel group during our amazing educational pilgrimage as well as additional insights learned during the time I was in Spain.

Continuing from last time…

     As I’ve journeyed into the adventure of prayer, learning to listen for and discern the voice of God, I’ve discovered not only will there be obstacles along the way, but there will be times when I come to a juncture in my journey, and I must decide which road I’ll take. I call these roads,

     The road of “Yes, BUT…” or

     The road of “Yes, WHAT…”

     One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. In the last stanza, Frost reminds readers the road he chose “made all the difference.”

     In my experience of counseling–for several years in the arena of a government workplace, and for the past four years working in the local church as a pastoral counselor—I’ve encountered many folks who insist on taking the road of “Yes, but…”

     Way too often, I have chosen the same road. I won’t ask you if you have, but I imagine most would answer in the affirmative.

     The Bible is filled with many examples of good, God-loving people, who chose both roads. Because we’re familiar with the stories, we realize Scripture confirms the truth of Robert Frost’s implication that roads they chose made a difference.

     Noah chose the road of “Yes, WHAT…” I like the way the New English Version describes Noah’s response when God directed him to build an ark.

     “And Noah did all that God commanded him—he did indeed. [emphasis mine] Genesis 6:22

     Moses, on the other hand, chose the road of “Yes, But…” When God spoke to him, God assured Moses of His sufficiency to help Moses lead the Israelites out of bondage. Exodus 4:11-13 (NIV) describes their conversation when Moses argued he wasn’t capable of public speaking.

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? … Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

     I love the story of Hannah and Samuel, both amazing saints who took the road of “Yes, what…”

1 Samuel 1:24 says, After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was,…and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. [emphasis mine]

     I wonder what would have happened if Hannah had instead said, “Yes, Lord, I know I promised, BUT he’s SO little, and I love him SO much.”

     A few pages later, there’s the wonderful story of her precious little son in 1 Samuel 3. When the Lord called to Samuel, the child answered,

      “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

     What if Samuel’s response had been, “Yes, BUT… I’m too young.”

     My favorite time in Spain was the day we spent in Ávila where we focused our attention on the remarkable 16th Century saint, Teresa of Ávila. Writing in my journal the next day, I said,

I will always remember Ávila. All day long yesterday, I was filled with a delightfully full heart as I learned about the strong, spunky, godly woman, Teresa. I consider very few people ‘heroes’ or ‘heroines,’ but from yesterday onward, that’s how I’ll view Teresa.

     My next post will be dedicated to Teresa of Ávila. She was a woman who chose the road of “Yes, WHAT…” over and over. I look forward to telling you a little about this admirable woman.

What about you?

  • Can you think of a time when you came to a juncture in your journey of faith?
  • Did you choose the road of “Yes, BUT…” or the road of “Yes, WHAT…?
  • What did you learn because of the choice you made?

I would love to receive your feedback!

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

The roads we choose to take make all the difference. I can only imagine the stories this typical neighborhood road I walked upon in Spain could tell!!