We often think of the word ‘yes’ when we talk about open doors. A knock comes at the door of our houses. What do we say when we open the door? “Yes, may I help you?” We may not say these exact words but may say some variation of them. I created my 2022 vision board on New Year’s Eve as I have done for the last 5-7 years. I engage this time of creative rest and renewal prayerfully and intentionally asking the Holy Spirit to guide me in the theme for the year and the words, pictures, quotes, and phrases to add to the board. Over the last few years, when I have created my vision board, the year’s theme and corresponding items for the board came to me quickly and easily.
But, New Year’s Eve 2021 was different. I believe it was different because, collectively, our world and nation still sit in the throes of COVID-19 and all its variants. I believe it was different because, during it all, we were still living life, doing ministry, building the relationships in our lives, tending to our self-care, and holding all the things. I believe New Year’s Eve 2021 was different because, well, I (we) was so tired of it all. As I approached my vision board, a silent question burned in my spirit: “God, how do you want me to move differently in 2022 for your glory? One of the phrases that the Spirit of God led me to put on my vision board, taken from a magazine, were the words “No Opens Doors.” At first, I looked at the words and said, “What? God no doesn’t open doors. Yes does.” Then, as I sat and reflected on the words, the Spirit reminded me of Paul’s missionary journeys – the journeys in which Paul and many others shared the gospel of Jesus Christ forming the early Church.
Acts 16:6-7 says: “They (Paul and company) went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came to Mystia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Did y’all catch that? The Holy Spirit’s ‘no’ to both speaking the word in Asia and Bithynia, opened the door for Paul to travel to Macedonia (God’s direction came to him in a vision) to speak the word. Along Paul’s travels, a woman named Lydia and her household believed in Jesus, the jailer who held Paul and Silas came to know Jesus, and a whole host of other people and communities believed before Paul and company reached Macedonia. And all these people and communities believed simply based on the apostle Paul’s obedience to God’s ‘no’.
As we continue into 2022, I invite you to consider this question: “How is the Spirit of the Living God calling me to say ‘no’ so that doors can be opened for others to meet Jesus through me?” I know this is a weighty question! Trust me when I tell you I was afraid to even put these words on my vision board. But then I reflected on the last two years and what I (we) have waded through…. deep fatigue…. loss……quick pivots to new ways of doing ministry……. lament…. deep uncertainty. I am sure you can add more items to this list. But the point is this: Even in this season (and the many seasons after it!), God loves us so much that the Divine calls us to say ‘no’ to overworking, over functioning, overperforming, having all the answers, and the pressures of this life, so that we can open the doors to green pastures, still waters, deep rest and reflection, intentional living, and having the eternal hope and peace only God provides. I believe when we say ‘yes’ each day to these ways of being, we become living sacraments in which Jesus shines inviting others to open the door to Jesus in their lives.