One of the most important lessons I learned in college was, “Never take ‘No’ for an answer.” It was a recurring theme for me from admission to graduation as I had to find creative ways to get my university to actually live up to their own policies on my behalf.
The lesson also served me well post-college when I sometimes needed to exercise ingenuity to accomplish things in my workplace.
I think sometimes I carry that same concept into my spiritual life. I’m familiar with passages like Luke 18:1-5 that illustrate that persistence in prayer pays off. So it came as a surprise recently when I realized that sometimes I have trouble taking a ‘yes’ for an answer.
There’s a writers conference I’ve attended for more than 15 years. God blessed me with confirmation of His call to write when I found my first publisher there. I’ve made good connections and lifelong friends over the years. It’s not cheap, but God has always provided the means to attend.
This year though, I began to wonder if it might the time for me to miss. My heart wanted to be there, but I wasn’t sure it would be responsible to spend any of our limited resources on something that was feeling rather selfish at the moment.
Finally, rather than praying simply for provision, I prayed two specific things:
- That at least a portion of the funds would come from outside of our income, and
- That God would direct my husband to say, “Go,” without any persuasion or manipulation on my part.
I contacted the conference director to see if there was any work needed so I could ‘earn my keep’ for part of it. The answer came back as a ‘no,’ but a partial scholarship was offered instead.
I told Dean about the reply, and didn’t bring up the issue again (which took a very conscious effort at times). A day or two later, he came home and said, ”I’m preaching two more times this month. You can use that money to go to Mt. Hermon.”
We went out of town for a few days and didn’t have internet access for me to print off the scholarship form and submit it. When we returned from our trip, just 4 days before the start of the conference, I was paying the bills we had due and knew that the money from Dean’s speaking could help pay some of our regular expenses. If I used it for going to the conference, I didn’t know where a similar amount would come from to meet our family’s needs.
As I wrestled with my dilemma, I was reminded of my specific prayers and realized that God had answered them exactly. It was as though I could hear Him say, “Sometimes you just have to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 NIV
Over and over during the conference God confirmed that being there was the right thing this year.
An unexpected postscript to the story…When I got home, I still wasn’t sure how we’d make up for using the money for me to attend the conference.
Three days later the mailbox looked empty, but an email from my sister prompted me to check anyway. Of five pieces of mail in the box, four of them contained completely unanticipated money! If the funds had come before the conference I would have gone with more confidence. But it was a reminder that sometimes God asks us to move forward when we don’t have all the answers about how something will work out. He had answered my prayers and that was all the ‘yes’ I needed.
Do you ever have trouble taking ‘yes’ for an answer from God?