I was frozen in terror.
Standing on the end of the fiberglass plank, I could feel my toes, curled in silent resistance. I snuck a glance down into the azure water at the deep end of the pool.
It was only ten feet below me, but I might as well have been diving from the volcanic cliffs of a Caribbean Island.
I remember the first time I jumped off the diving board at the community pool. Not the one that all the little kids were diving from. The big one – the one that towered over the deep of the pool. The one that the high school boys jackknifed from, slicing the water.
I was probably no more than 11 years old. But I was old enough to feel the weight of mortality, every pore of my body dripped with the fear of splashing in the water far below.
I don’t know if it was bravery or the fear of being called a chicken, but somehow, I mustered a final jolt of bravery. I closed my eyes and counted out loud.
Leaps of Faith
And you know what? I lived. I made it. I shook the water from my hair and with a big smile I climbed the ladder to jump again… and again… and again.
Since then, my life has consisted of other defining moments, those decisive times when I simply had to jump. New jobs. Marriage. Kids. Buying a house. Moving.
The decisions haven’t always been clear. I asked for a sign from God – like an airplane pulling a banner or for the dog to look up at me and speak a clear instruction. I would have settled for a deep conviction, a burning inside that I could not ignore. But often, I just had to breath deep, say a prayer and jump. I think that’s where we get the phrase, “Leaps of Faith.”
But as I crossed over to the other side of middle age, I started loving the comfortable. I figured out the well-trod paths that were safe, more secure. These were the ones without challenge, the ones that would guarantee my success. I no longer needed faith because I had experience.
I quit taking risks. And along the way, I quit trusting God, instead choosing to walk down easy street.
I had been living a middle-class existence in the suburbs with a nice house, a car that runs, and a steady job. For many, it was an enviable life.
But it was an empty experience. I wasn’t engaged with my neighbors, my town, my world. I was going through the motions. And the worst thing of all is that I wasn’t having an impact, I wasn’t making a difference. I was simply existing.
I picked comfort over disquiet.
I opted for safety instead of curiosity.
I was secure.
I was predictable.
And I was dying on the inside.
A gnawing feeling inside told me there was more to life. It all came down to my addiction to a single word:
Why We Say “No”
A baby begins learning language with two words in his vocabulary: “Mama” and “no.” From the very beginning of our conscious life, we are conditioned to start saying “no.”
There is an inherent message in our society that encourages people to say “no” to protect their time, their wallets, and their hearts. There are plenty of agreeing voices, a chorus of others who encourage us to continue down this path. Parenting experts, spiritual guides, and time managers all embrace the word. We are conditioned to say “no” because saying “yes” means a commitment of our resources, energy, and passions.
“No” slips easily off our tongue like an ice cube on a summer day.
If you are like me, you’ll have no problem pulling out a slip of paper from your envelope of excuses. I had I had plenty of them to avoid expanding my world. I had bills to pay. A career to pursue. A family to raise. I was too old. I was too young. I didn’t have the experience. I didn’t have the education. I didn’t have the right credentials. I didn’t have the money. I didn’t have the time.
Plus, there is no shortage of things that keep us busy. The everyday business of raising a family, making a living, engaging with family and friends and fulfilling obligations packs the calendar. So, making a commitment that encourages you to add something to your already full plate might seem counter intuitive.
But how can I live a life of faith if the first word out of my mouth is “no?”
Say “Yes” to God’s Opportunity
A couple of years ago, I made a decision that would forever alter my ways. I vowed to say “Yes” to every opportunity. It was just one word, a mere three letters. A lifetime of change.
The defensive mechanism of pushing back and guarding my time, preventing myself from exposure to discomfort, is precisely the thing that keeps me from a life of blessing.
I quit relying on the hollow reasons that kept me from walking through the doors of possibility.
“Yes” is the word that changes every conversation.
“Yes” is the key that opens doors to new opportunities.
“Yes” is the solution to every self-imposed limitation.
Over time, my insecurities disappeared, replaced with new-found confidence. My excuses for inaction fell away. My stagnant life is now rich with opportunity.
There are times when saying “no” is prudent and smart. I’m not encouraging you to say “yes” to those things that will bring financial, spiritual, or emotional ruin. The “no” based on wisdom is far different from the “no” based on fear.
I want to move past the fears, past the excuses. I want to convey a different kind of living —one of everyday wonder, amazement, and surprise.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said this: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
The “3-2-1” moments we all have faced in our lives, those times when we decide to jump in with all our might and gusto, are at the beginning of every great, Godly adventure. I’m hoping that the next time you hear the countdown, the next word out of your mouth will be “YES!”