Alyce McKenzie: Saying Nes and Saying Yo: Discernment and Indecision


"Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No.'; anything  more than this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37)

Lately I've been translating this verse,

Let your yes be "Not really, but maybe" and your no be "Sure, I guess I not." (Matthew 5:37the MCV version of the Bible = McKenzie's Corrupted Version)

I was doing so well earlier in the year with defining my core purpose and my essential identity and gifts and what my priorities need to be moving forward. I was even dispensing  advice on an ongoing basis to a whole group of people on this subject. I led a spiritual formation group at Perkins School of Theology this past year and we completed an inspiring unit on "Saying yes, and saying no," based on the actual wording of Matthew 5:37. I gave the group excellent pointers  on setting boundaries and how they don't have to be everything to everyone, and how when you say no to something it opens the door for someone else to say yes, and how sometimes you have to say no to something because you've already said yes to something else. I have lots of great lines for other people.

But if I let my prayer life slip,  I become a backslider. I quickly slither back into second guessing my yeses and my no's. I begin to fear that maybe I've got them backwards. I say no to something and then feel guilty about it or say yes to something and then feel resentful that I have to do it. I say no to working with a particular student group this year and yes to editing a book of essays on a topic in which I have almost no interest. I think I may have got that backwards. I say no to a hymn sing at a friend's home and yes to 2 hours on the couch catching up on the Mentalist. That might have been an ok decision, I'm not sure yet.  And to make it all worse, apparently all this indecision is from the evil one. Although, that does give me someone to blame other than myself.

In my defense, life is very complicated, demanding, and, at times, confusing. Every choice has a trade off and, if you're not careful you don't even get left holding the bag- you get left holding  nothing at all. Academic types, and, for that matter,everybody I know, have to protect their time so they get their projects done, but then the semester ends and you realize you never made time to have dinner with that colleague who will be leaving tomorrow. But if you spend all your time fellowshipping  you never get your project done that you've been given a grant to complete.

I admire those of you who are reading these musings and feeling disdain for their author, those of you who never second guess your decisions, who don't wish you could live every life, who have come to total terms with your human limitations and don't wish there were more hours in the day. I pay homage to those of you who have a strong core,premier  priority setting practices, and the guarantee of unshakeable spiritual stability for the rest of your life. You go!

My mother weighed in on my  recent "saying yes and saying no," decisions  yesterday.  She called for the express purpose of saying, "Alyce, you haven't written a KFN blog in several days. Get on the ball."

So I did.

Taken with permission from Alyce's blog, "Knack for Noticing," on