On the little yes

I just love Lent. I mean really love it. And I know, it’s easy to say that four days in. Get back to me in 40. But still, there’s just something I find marvelous about this season, what with its fasting and anticipation and potential for deep transformation. Yes, it’s risky, and yes, I’ve failed, but here’s what I find particularly significant about these sacred days: the little yes.

We tend to think about Lent with a litany of no’s: no meat on Friday, no indulging, no Alleluias, no fun. (Just kidding about that last one.) But the beauty of Lent begins to take root when we see how it invites us instead to say, with whole hearts and generous spirits, yes. Again and again, in little ways, until we are wholly changed. Yes to that first alarm that interrupts our night of sleep. Yes to that unabashed driver who wants to get in our lane. Yes to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; yes to God and to self-control and to the needy. It doesn’t take grand gestures to live a life transformed by Christ, but a will that’s been refined for weeks, months, years, as He’s come to us in the form of an interruption or invitation, again and again.

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.

(Luke 5:27-28)

Now this does seem like a grand gesture. Sometimes it does seem as if He requires so much of us. I don’t know that I would, like Levi, immediately abandon the life I’d known to radically follow Jesus. But the more I think about Levi, transformed into the apostle Matthew, the more hope I glean. I imagine that he’d often seen and heard Jesus teach and preach and heal as he sat at his customs post. Perhaps the first time he caught a glimpse of Jesus, he was skeptical, hard-hearted, unmoved. But I also imagine that first yes whispered silently in his heart. A yes to his curiosity, to his conscience, to his desire for more than his sinful, selfish life. I imagine in him a growing detachment to the things of this world, imperceptible at first, then rich with possibility. As if he’d been longing for days for Jesus to speak those two blessed words: Follow me.

Matthew says yes with his whole self. He stands, and he follows, and he takes Jesus into his home. He makes Jesus a great feast alongside his fellow tax collectors, entirely unconcerned with their disapproval and disdain. His yes, I imagine, had been building slowly until it reached that brilliant point of no return. But I like to think of its little beginning.

I’m gradually learning to say those little yeses this Lent, to replace my sadness at the seeming deprivation of fasting with a happier yes to treasure in heaven. I’ve taken on small, simple ways of steeping my day in prayer, whether it’s 15 minutes when I arrive at the office or offering each day for someone I love. I’m saying yes to the slight ache of hunger, yes to my irritable neighbor, yes to books in place of screens. Those yeses add beauty to a sometimes gloomy world, breathe a little life into a culture of death, work to bring about the kingdom of God.

Jesus may not ask you to leave behind everything in the way He did Levi. But, I’m sure He’s asking you to say yes to something today. Even a little yes will do. What will your answer be?





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