By Suanne Camfield
UGH. Why did I say yes to this?
I don’t need to know you to feel comfortable making this wager: you’ve said these words, probably more than once—and you’ve hated yourself for doing so. Most likely sitting at your kitchen table exasperated, staring at the seventy-fifth email you had to send for the committee you begrudgingly agreed to lead (because no one else would), depleted of sleep and energy and time and relaxation.
And you wonder for the millionth time, “Why on earth did I ever say yes to this?”
A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with a group of women talking about invitations. We were led by author and spiritual director Adele Calhoun. In her book Invitations from God, Adele makes this bold statement: “Invitations shape who we know, where we go, what we do and who we become. Invitations can challenge and remake us. They can erode and devastate. And they can also heal and restore us.”
If you’re like me, your heart lurches at the profound truth lodged in those sentences. Flashes of triumph and pangs of failure crash your mind at once. Failure: the time you said yes to leading the team you had no business leading, the relationship you endured that became a damaging mark on your soul, the opportunity you were afraid to risk that won’t quit nagging at the corners of your heart. Triumph: the job you took that helped you rediscover who you are, the adoption papers you signed that gave hope to new life, the pressure you had the guts to resist and thanked your good senses a million times over.
As influencers, we have a responsibility to be wise about which invitations we accept and which we decline. Our influence has reach. Our decisions affect the health of our families, our friendships, our teammates, our coworkers and most importantly our own souls. But we often fall prey to the cultural lie that the more invitations we accept, the more valuable we are.
Adele says, “We think by saying yes to invitations, we prove that we are important, wanted and—of course—busy. The truth, however, is that when we say yes to invitations that keep us compulsively busy, we may be exhibiting a lazy ambivalence that actually keeps us distracted from the invitations that matter most. Squeezing every margin to the max, we are left with less time and space to respond to the invitations from God.”
So how do we make sure we are saying yes to the invitations that really matter?
Maybe we create space in our lives to listen—close our laptops at sunset, refuse to check our email at stop lights, pick up our Bibles instead of our iPads. Maybe we choose not to pack our schedules so tight that the slightest interruption wreaks havoc on our day. Maybe we open ourselves to the wisdom of trusted friends. Maybe we stamp out the fear of missing out that stems from saying no. Maybe we trust God’s power – in our yeses and our no’s — more than our own.
After all, the invitations that come from God are the ones that really count—the ones that beckon us to rest in his presence, to love our neighbors and to influence others out of who we are. These are the invitations that most shape who we are. And the ones that keep us from sitting exasperated at our kitchen table.