(Jesus said) “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. ~ Matthew 21:28-32
This is the OTHER parable about two sons.
And like the other more famous story, I find myself able to identify with both sons.
Early on in my life - as an older child and perfectionist, control freak - I remember saying "yes" to everything asked of me. It was, I believed, what was expected of me. Just say "yes."
Sometimes the "yes" was easy to accomplish.
And it was during those times - those heavy, hard 'yeses,' that I began to grow in anxiety.
Eventually I learned I couldn't do everything. Not everything I wanted to do, and certainly not everything everyone else expected me to.
The disappointment in myself - by me and by others - was not something I relished. And it happened. More than I liked.
And the weight of that loss of control, and loss of "perfection" was crushing.
So I learned to say 'no' sometimes. It was difficult at first. Boundaries are almost always tricky to first establish. Most of us don't want to disappoint someone.
The cliche "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" has some realistic grounding. Good intentions are fine, but they get you nowhere in and of themselves.
But repentance - the changing direction; the moving from "no" to "yes" can be salvation. The realization that we can do more than we thought possible saves not just those around us, but ourselves. It brings us to new, richer life: one in which we recognize that it isn't our perfection that makes us closer to God and each other, but our willingness to change direction when called to.
Lord, help me turn my "noes" to "yeses" and when I say yes, help me to follow through. Amen.