Facebook memories are interesting reminders. You know, those notifications that pop up and show you what you were doing that date however many years ago? Odd what they dredge up in our brains. This week couldn’t have been a more diverse spread of past experiences, these landmarks showing up on my feed, these reminders greeting me first thing in the morning.
Five years ago last week I was in peak physical condition and hiked/climbed to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite with my husband and some stalwart and hardy hiking friends. I remember that grueling day, hot and dry, 13 hours of constant physical exertion, spanning 20 miles of up and down, boasting a 5,000-foot elevation gain. I had trained for months to be able to do that hike and felt an enormous sense of elation and accomplishment after finishing. And exhaustion. Let’s not forget the exhaustion. But my life felt so full of “yes.” Yes, I made it. Yes, I trained hard and I did this hard-core thing. Yes, I could do other hard things. Yes.
Two years ago last week I resigned from a job I loved because my then-new chronic illness had removed my ability to function in a normal way, removed my ability to do little more than be on the couch, and certainly removed the ability to keep up my busy and demanding job with its 45 minute commute on each end of each day. Riding home from that meeting with my boss, one had I had dreaded yet accepted as something that must be, I remember feeling betrayed by my body and adrift as to what my life would mean going forward. And my life felt so very much like it was full of “no.” No more career. No more being surrounded by people all day. No more achievement. No more strength to do even the basic things. No answers or healing. No.
One year ago last week I was at the She Speaks conference in Charlotte, North Carolina along with 800 or so other hopeful Christian women speakers, writers, bloggers, and leaders. What an experience! I loved meeting these other amazing women from all over the country, hearing their stories, learning at the feet of some of the most genuine and successful speakers and writers in the business. I left with a full heart but no book deal. Which was okay. But in the moment felt like a whole lot of “no.” No, thanks, you don’t have enough followers. No, this market is very hard to crack. No, your heart bled out on a page isn’t quite what we’re looking for. No.
But I’ve learned, and been reminded by these Facebook notifications, that what feels like “no” isn’t really always a “no” in God’s view. Often it’s a “this isn’t the right time,” or “I have something else in mind, something that’s a better fit,” or “let’s go this direction instead,” or “not with this book,” or “not with these people.”
What feels like “no” is really God making space for a different “yes.” Making space usually means getting rid of what was or setting aside what we want or have, both difficult things. But “no” frees up space whereas “yes” tends to fill it up.
As I walk through this life, God shows me over and over that a walk of faith, one that is focused on trusting Him more than getting the outcome I expected, is a walk of “yes.” Yes, I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, author and perfecter of my faith. Yes, I will go where He wants me. Yes, I will move to Texas and watch what He does with it.
Everyone has these elated, mountaintop (pun intended) experiences, those big “Life Is Yes” moments, and that’s amazing. Keep those as milestones in your mind, tuck them into your heart, those things you can point back to, showing what God has already done. (And yes, He did help me with that climb. I’m still alive, aren’t I?)
But in those times when life seems to be made up of nothing but “NO,” that is when your faith gets real. Really real. When you’re not aglow with achievement and gloriously-met goals, when instead you feel the chilly shadow of things not looking like you thought they would, THAT, more than any other time, is when we learn to trust. And you can see beyond the immediate to the possible.
Because with God, all things are possible. And His “no” leads to His best-for-me “yes.”