Yes and No, Revisited

I wrote this post series two years ago, and I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m leaving the series up on the blog as a reminder to myself that people change, and for transparency, but I’ve recently felt pulled to address some parts I now view differently.

Yes and No Phases, Introvert and Extrovert, love languages- these are all words I’ve used in the past to label my, my husband’s, and other people’s behaviors.

But behaviors aren’t people, and neither are labels.

In the two years since writing the Yes and No series, I’ve used Yes and No selfishly, and I’ve used them humbly- and not always discerned in the moment which one I’m doing. God has pricked my conscience in the moment, and I’ve ignored it and said yes or no anyway, but there have also been times where I have listened and not liked the outcome. Mostly because it was “hard” and “not what I wanted”.

I don’t want to throw away the lists I made, or the terms all together, but I’m learning to find a way to redeem them. When I first wrote about Yes and No, it was from the cerebral perspective of finding the best solution, going with it, and finding “success” and “happiness”. I cringe reading those words now, because while I have found joy in saying yes and no, it’s not been because I followed my list and determined the best one- it’s been because I simply listened and said the words God put on my heart.

In the moments where I have chosen to ignore that voice, and turned to my falsely reassuring labels- for example: I’m an extrovert so I need this social time or I won’t be able to be okay- I’ve found myself regretting the decision. I was also then forced to look at my selfishness and do the hard thing I was avoiding by saying yes or no anyway! My ego will often take center stage as well and convince me that I’ve found the best or perfect solution, only to find I’ve only found the perfect solution to avoid my discomfort. And I end up hurting people along the way.

The solutions I look back on now as truly life-giving and perfect, are ones that weren’t really a singular perfect decision, but a lot of little decisions I made while still feeling a bit lost and unsure of the outcome, but confident that God was pulling me in a direction I needed to go.

Sometimes labels played a part in those decisions- but often they were labels I wanted to run away from, and not put on myself. Labels that made me uncomfortable with my sinfulness and the ways it had impacted those around me.

I’ve realized that I often turn to these labels to try and make other people understand me and my motivations, in an attempt to gain control over how they see me. In reality, I have no control over how people see me. I do have control over how I respond to what God is asking of me, and how I choose to view myself. When I view myself as broken and incomplete, I tend to turn toward these earthly labels to validate my sins and shortcomings and make myself artificially feel better for a time. And honestly, doing that has kept me alive, especially when the thoughts of self hatred were so overwhelming. Gradually though, even the validating labels weren’t enough- so I sought out more labels, ones that were more detailed and thorough, in an attempt to not be misunderstood by having a detailed reason as to why I was doing what I was.

Even if those reasons were true, it didn’t make them right. Just because I had a label to validate my actions didn’t make them right- or holy.

And now, since I’ve thoroughly engrained those labels into my mind about myself, they’ve started become the lenses through which I view others- another tool to encourage judgement, anger and hatred.

A timely reminder from my Parousia Press Little Church Planner

So I’m trying to take the information my eyes process with the glasses on, and use it to find the things I need to pray for others about, use it to love them and meet them where they are. And to do the same to myself.

If you do read that post, and want to use the labels, I am by no means against it. I just want to make sure that the use of a tool for evil is not done because of my words. I will continue to pray that God be with anyone who reads my writing, and hides from them any stumbling block that may lead them off course. To Him be all glory, power and dominion, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

from where I stand: worshiping with the angels

From where I stand is a series of my reflections from thoughts I have during services as I lead my parish at the chanter stand. Maybe some good can come from my wandering mind…

By Charlie Mackesy

Our parish has had several new catechumens in the last year or so. It’s been a good reminder for me that I really am not so far removed from that place of newness and learning. From the pains in my calves as they learned to stand for long services, the fidgeting of a slightly uncomfortableness in a new place.

One of the catechumens I’ve noticed has a habit of movement throughout the service. I stand up at the front to sing so being distracted by the congregation is a part of the job. Side to side, swaying and even stepping one foot up while doing so, their hands touch in front of their torso, fidgeting and trying to find something to do. During one service I began sneaking peeks, wondering how long until their body would be comfortable and calm. But it never happened. The whole service, fidgeting and swaying.

It reminded me much of how my children are in church- very incapable of remaining in one place, fingers finding something to do, feet unable to stay on the ground. And then I remembered- even though my children have been baptized into this church, it is still new to them. It is still a skill that needs honing, a practice their earthly bodies are learning the control to master. And I too,really, know nothing of heavenly worship. As I’ve heard Fr. Stephen Freeman say, church is just playing heaven for adults. We all learn through play, through mimicking those who do the real thing, until one day we’re the real mama, no baby doll but a real live baby in our arms.

This is why we sing “represent the Cherubim”. We are learning to be like the angels. And how patient they are with us. They’ve been worshiping God in this manner for their whole existence. They know how to keep the music and service going while quietly redirecting the attention of all the children in their care. They love to see us all with them in church, but they understand that it’s hard for us. It’s hard to stay still. It’s hard to leave my hands and headscarf and my skirt and all the other distractions alone and keep my hands focused on the crosses they need to do. To keep my lips quiet of earthly conversation and open to sing the words of heaven. But the angels stay with us, patient and understanding that this is all still really new to us too. That we are really just catechumens of heaven, learning as much as we can so when we are to enter into the true church of heaven we will know what to do, what to say, how to be.

The angels do not become angry and pull us out of the service when we cannot focus- they stay right next to us and remind us gently to keep our thoughts on God.

We are all children, playing church while our angels show us the way in our minds, hearts and bodies. If I forget this, I become a pharisee-following the rules and annoyed at those who can’t keep up, but lacking the kingdom of heaven to share with those who are learning too.