"Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me." Ps 40: 6
I’ve always had a hard time saying no when I’m asked to do something that I consider a "good" thing. God finally showed me that I’m not called to do everything! There will always be things that need to be done, but it’s important to first discern if God is calling me to do it – not just if I’m capable of doing it. I need ears open to obedience. For one, it’s easy to get over-committed and then family life suffers and often prayer time gets lost in the shuffle. Another result is that we sometimes keep others from volunteering because we say yes so quickly that no one else has a chance to step up.
It’s such an easy trap to fall into – especially in the church. Ministries usually need people to help. Someone tells us "You’d be so good at that!" We feel good when our ego is stroked, so we say yes. But is it actually God calling us? When our children were very young we went on a Marriage Encounter weekend. Afterwards the presenting couples asked us if we would like to be on the team. We were flattered, and really wanted to say yes. But after prayer and reflection, we realized that we couldn’t be away from our kids that much. It was a hard decision, because it would have been fun to share our love with other couples and to go out of town some weekends. Sometimes being obedient to God means saying no to good things. (And even though our answer was no, it was also right for someone else to say yes!)
We can do lots of stuff for God and yet not even spend time with Him. But He doesn’t want our good deeds and worship out of obligation. He wants our hearts. I can go to mass every Sunday, and still be far from God. I can teach Sunday school and be in every committee at church and still be far from God. All of my acts of goodness don’t mean anything unless they come from a heart that loves God first. We are to abide in Him. When we do that, we soak up the love He gives us so freely, and then we say yes when He calls us to share that love with others.
Janice Carleton and her husband Jim live in Portland, OR and partner with Passionist Fr. Cedric Pisegna in Fr. Cedric Ministries. Janice also leads women’s retreats. She is the mother of 4 grown children and grandmother of 2, soon to be 3.