That Initial Yes, the Ultimate Yes & the Mundane, Crazy, Terrifying In-Between
Thinking about the future is a funny thing. For some of us, it lights us up. We spend hours imagining adventures and cool places to explore around the world. We imagine the ultimate yes God could be calling us to, that moment where we’re finally doing what we were made to do. Living out our faith and embracing our gifts wholeheartedly. Doing the kinds of things our heroes and role models are doing.
Others of us are paralyzed by the future. We’d rather just not think about it at all. Life is hard and scary enough now without thinking about that initial yes God has placed right in front of us, whether that’s stepping up to lead a Bible study or asking a person to hang out for the first time.
Wherever you fall on this thoughts-about-the-future spectrum (I’ve experienced both extremes), something Bishop Claude Alexander said at Urbana 22 a few months ago offers a good word: “The initial yes is never the ultimate yes.”
1. Be patient. Walk, don’t teleport.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to just teleport whenever you wanted to? No more boring car rides across the country. No more taking the bus across town to get to campus. As soon as you think of a place, boom, you’re there!
And then add in the ability to fast-forward through time, skipping all the boring parts of life — washing dishes, writing papers, folding laundry, insert-the-blank — and you’re pretty much set for the perfect life all the time, right?
Yet … that’s not how God works. There’s a huge 30-year gap between Jesus’ miraculous birth and the start of his earthly ministry that we just don’t know much about. If anyone had a right to be impatient and want to fast-forward to their ultimate yes, it was Jesus. But when Jesus finally did begin his ministry, he walked; he didn’t teleport. He got dressed, slept, ate, paid his taxes even, like everyone else. He wasn’t immune to the mundane.
Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.
So if you’re struggling with life’s pace right now, praying that things would hurry up and get started already, remember: “The initial yes is never the ultimate yes.” And you’re not ready for your ultimate yes yet. No matter how much you think you are.
Do the hard work of growing and being faithful in the small things (Mt 25:23). In the right time, Jesus will call you to the next yes and the next yes until yes, you’re finally ready for the ultimate yes he’s prepared you for.
2. Be at peace. Don’t worry!
But what if the future worries you? What if you’re worried about choosing the wrong major, the wrong job, the wrong spouse?
Think back on a time when a certain decision or event seemed like it was going to define the rest of your life. In my high school, it was the ACT for a lot of people. It felt like this test was the sole gatekeeper in whether you’d have a life of bliss and wonder or miserable drudgery. In college and after college, it was all about job stuff.
Looking back at those things in my life, yes, I see how they had an impact on me, but none of them were dealbreakers. It’s been a long time since someone asked me what I got on my ACT. And after having navigated changing majors, changing states, changing my entire career, I’ve seen how Jesus has been faithful. Every. Single. Time.
So let me repeat Bishop Claude’s words once more: “The initial yes is never the ultimate yes.”
It’s highly unlikely that Jesus is going to call you to go straight from being a student with a side hustle as a barista on Monday to leading a major non-profit responsible for the feeding of widows and orphans halfway around the world by Tuesday. (If that does happen, please leave a comment!)
So be at peace. Don’t worry about your major or your career or even what commitment you made at Urbana. The yes Jesus is calling you to right now may seem far more than you can bear. It may feel impossibly stretching. I know what that’s like, believe me. But it’s at the end of ourselves, when we feel weak, that Jesus shines true, like he said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). And in time, when Jesus has grown you, you’ll be ready to respond to his ultimate yes.
3. Be faithful.
Any time we start talking about “yes,” that inevitably invites “no” into the conversation too. We can say no to the opportunities, big or small, that Jesus gives us — we’ve all done it at some point. In the beginning, humanity said no to the Creator (Gen 3). That’s why we needed Jesus to come down to earth and die on the cross in the first place.
Much more can be said about why it’s so important to keep saying yes to Jesus, to live out our faith through our actions (Jas 2:14-26) — not from a place of guilt or fear but because we have been changed by Christ who indwells us.
But let me leave things here for now: A life of faithfulness is simply more rewarding, simply better than a life of running from Christ’s invitations. The certainty and peace of knowing that you’re walking in the center of God’s will, being faithful to what he’s called you to, is a far, far better thing than constantly dodging opportunities and making excuses to yourself and God.
So even when it’s hard to say yes, know that on the other side of that yes, on the other side of your fear and uncertainty, there is a better, richer intimacy with Jesus. And that is a far more valuable gift than we could ever imagine!
Sharing insightful stories and practical tools, InterVarsity leader Christine Wagoner invites you to be attentive to the movements of the Spirit and engage with opportunities God gives you on your spiritual journey. Fellow InterVarsity leader Sarah Shin says, "Every person considering saying 'yes' to God should read this book to find strength, comfort, and hope in discerning steps of faithful risk-taking."
Zelma had some joyful and some traumatic childhood moments. She was baptized as a kid, but turned away from God as she grew up. When she attended College of the Muscogee Nation, she struggled with nightmares, sleeping, and drinking. But eventually, she accepted Jesus transferred schools, and stumbled upon the InterVarsity chapter, making friends, reading Scripture, praying, and having her many questions answered. By the next year, she was leading a Bible study.
Now I often find myself hunched over my phone in line at the grocery store or sitting in my car checking TikTok for some fresh hits of dopamine before I set out on my way. It’s like I’d rather have something take up the space in my mind than be alone with the quiet of my own thoughts anymore.
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