Our girls were in bed, the dishes were clean, and I had just poured myself a glass of wine. There were at least two TV shows that I was looking forward to catching up on—maybe even three. But it was eight o’clock; the day was nearly done. I’d have to temper my expectations.
“What should we do tonight?” my wife asked, leaning over the kitchen counter.
I gestured toward the TV. “We could watch the finale of Mythic Quest. Maybe even catch up on Willow.”
“Or,” my wife said, raising her finger, “and you’re not going to like this—we could paint the kitchen.”
I want to draw your attention, dear reader, back to that first paragraph where I specifically noted that it was eight o’clock. That was p.m.
“It’s eight o’clock,” I said, assuming my wife, now alerted to this fact, would reach the same conclusion I had.
“Right,” my wife said. “But when are we ever going to start painting before eight o’clock?”
She had a point. “But we haven’t done any prep,” I replied. “We gotta tape the corners, take off the electrical plates, and move the fridge. Plus, the drop cloths, the mess. Where’s the cat gonna go? We’re just not prepared.”
My wife raised her eyebrows. “That’s always going to be the case. And we have the paint.”
“No, no,” I said, waving my wine around with one hand, petting said cat with the other. “It can’t be tonight.”
We did start painting the kitchen that night. We nearly finished. Some combination of my wife’s raised eyebrows, my own guilt, and that unavoidable fact that cats and children alike were never going to be a non-factor convinced me to put on some old clothes and splash some color on our previously white walls.
In the Gospel according to Matthew 21:28–32, we’re given the Parable of the Two Sons, in which the first son rejects his father’s request to work in the vineyard, only to change his mind later. I think of this parable a lot, because I often find myself in a situation similar to that night of eventual painting-the-kitchen. My first impulse time and again is to say, “No,” and to list the reasons why this task or the other is impossible.
To be sure, it’s not unwise to be a bit protective of our time, talent, and treasure. Saying “Yes” too often and without thinking the matter through can stretch us too thin—or put us in a position in which we’d rather not find ourselves. Indeed, sometimes “No” is the right answer.
But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we should try to get to “Yes”—for the good of ourselves, our community, and the Gospel.
When I place myself in this parable, it’s easy and tempting to grow frustrated: Why am I never the one to say “Yes” eagerly to the good works around me? Why is my default a hearty “No”?
But thankfully, Jesus isn’t presenting a one-time offer. Jesus invites. And invites again. And again. God is never done with us.
And what’s easily missed in the parable is the end: “The tax collectors and the prostitutes believed [John]; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe.” (Matthew 21:32) Those listening had had the opportunity to learn from the example of others; they were invited to go to God together.
Sure, the proverbial tax collector and prostitute were quicker to pick up on Jesus’ invitation. But Jesus didn’t then slam the door on the rest of us.
And so, this parable now makes me think of those around me who help me get to “yes.” They don’t do this in a manipulative or coercive way, but in a reflective we’re-always-going-to-have-the-cat-and-kids way. The lesson is one of humility. Are we able and willing to revisit our knee-jerk “no” when we get new and compelling information?
I’m not sure I’m the kind of guy who, at first pass, drops everything and follows Jesus. I think, if I’d been one of those potential first Apostles, I would’ve looked at Christ much in the way I looked at my wife: “You want me to do what? Don’t you know what time it is?”
But, fortunately for folks like me, the Christian life is lived in community; we learn from the saints and sinners of the past and present. And God invites us to consider anew the Gospel invitation in our particular time and place.
Conversion, after all, is a process. Ignatius was hit by that cannonball and then spent 11 months meeting God in the quiet of his recovery bed.
The Spirit will wait for us, never giving up those gentle, persistent nudges. It’s up to us, though, to listen, to respond, and to reconsider: Am I being invited to say “Yes” to God in a new way in this moment?
Don’t let a lack of drop cloths on the floor prevent you from doing something beautiful.
Photo by Roselyn Tirado on Unsplash.
Conversion, after all, is a process – Well said Eric.
Today the word conversion really hit home again… I feel called to deeper faith but often my quick reply is, not yet… I am passed the No part but into the idle wait. Yet again and again I am drawn into my urging. Luckily I can change my mind and God is always there smiling, saying I knew you would eventually come and follow me.
Yes,Jesus is always there waiting for us to renew our relationship with HIM.
Sometimes I think I am “the church of no” but it’s often because I need a little time to think things through and get on board with something new or a request – some of us are more enthusiastic at the start than others, but hopefully we all wind up at the finish line!
Eric, your message really hit home. Thank you for your words so well said. I am one who very often initially reacts with a “no, I can’t do that”, but most always rethinks, and re-does 🙂 Thanks for the nudge.
Love this, thanks 🙏