When I slipped off the wide gravel road and into the woods, I knew it was a risk. The worn, earthen trail between the trees was wore a dark, saturated look, as if just a few drops of rain would transform it into shoe-sucking mud. At first it was solid and often grassy. Before long, though, I heard the unmistakable squish of a boggy trail under my feet. I picked my way over and around and through the sloppy path and emerged at the edge of a clearing that could have been called a swamp. Because it was shallow and my toes were already wet, I tiptoed in and picked my way across. There was something on the other side I wanted to see.
Finding a bridge in the woods is one of my favorite things. It’s unexpected. A gift. After walking and walking and walking on dirt, suddenly there’s something different, something meant to make the way easier or maybe even possible, depending on the nature of the impasse.
As I approached the bridge, I thought it seemed a little odd. Out of perspective. Off somehow. When I reached it, I saw that to cross the bridge required three steps down and three back up on the other side. Usually you just walk straight onto and across a bridge. It’s a zero-depth entry operation. To cross this bridge required me to climb down onto it just to cross.
I thought it was weird.
The people who built the bridge could have used a little extra wood and added a few feet on each side and it would have been like the others. Straight on. Straight off.
Those bridges are easy. Familiar.
But this one, I realized, as I leaned over the railing and inspected the cleft in the earth below, mirrored one I’d been walking for a while. Not a literal bridge, of course. This one mirrored one of those figurative bridges I’m fond of. They’re as unexpected as the ones in the woods, and possibly a greater gift.
No. That’s the bridge. And it’s taking me to yes.
It’s a long one. I climbed down onto that bridge one yes at a time only to discover that I’d yesed myself into a whole lot of noes. Noes to people. To sleep. And to fun. All those noes prompted my husband and me to take a close and prayerful look at our life. A close and prayerful look led to the realization that what we need now are more, different, noes–noes to Big And Very Good Things, things we enjoy, things we’re good at, things where we make a difference. All in the name of crossing the bridge back to yes.
Yes to people. Yes to rest. And yes to joy.
It’s a long bridge and I’ll be on it longer than I would like. It will take a lot of steps to cross from one side of the chasm to the other, steps I know will be small and halting because I’m more prone to overcommitting than to cutting back.
But now that I’ve walked down the steps and onto the bridge I can see that it’s a good place to pause and count the cost, to ponder the conditions of current commitments and attend to God’s leading in order to press on, better able to stand behind my yeses and my noes. It’ll be awhile before I make it across the long bridge and climb the stairs on the other side. Along the way I’ll be learning to make better use of my noes, my yeses, and—for now—my summer, a season in which I’m trying to put my yeses in the right places, places like people—including my kids and the pool.
How about you? What are you doing with your yeses and noes?