In the early days of our friendship, Ted asked me to go out for dinner. The conversation went something like this:
“You probably don’t want to…you will probably say ‘no,’ but would you like to go to dinner with me?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s ok,” he said. “I didn’t think you would want to.”
“Ted, I said ‘yes,’” I countered, but he could not hear me. He was so certain I would say “no” that he could not hear my “yes.”
Over the next thirty years, Ted and I had many dinners together—always as friends.
He often returned to that initial conversation, saying, “Remember when I asked you out and you said, ‘no’?” I would remind him, “I said ‘yes.’” It became something of a joke among our friends, like a scene in a pantomime, because he loved to retell the story, “I asked Madeline out once and she said ‘no.’” They would say, “She said ‘yes.’”
That memory came back to me the other day when I was thinking about how open I am to hear God. I wonder if I predisposed to hear a message that may not be the message God is sending or if I shut down before something has a chance to take root. I sometimes wonder if I am exasperating God with all the times I say, “yes, but…” in the same way Ted’s retelling of our first-date conversation could exasperate me.
I know I can jump to a conclusion that shuts God out of the process, perhaps because of negative messages I have heard about what I can and cannot do, my low self-esteem, fears, anxieties, past failures, etc.
God asks us to try and try again, even when we don’t succeed at first or second or third. God asks for persistence (like the story of the widow who kept pestering the judge in Luke 18:1-8) and openness (let those who have ears hear, Matthew 11:15) to hear what God is saying.
Often these blockages are blind spots—we don’t even see them. What can help us become aware of our blind spots is to listen to what others might see in us and say about us.
Those conversations can be difficult to have. I remember the first time someone tried to tell me I was smart and capable. I thanked him, but he could tell I did not believe him, so he repeated it. “I heard you,” I said. “No, you didn’t,” he replied, and then he told me again that I was smart and capable. He could see my discomfort, because smart and capable were not words I associated with myself.
That conversation was the beginning of my questioning what I believed about myself and trying to see myself as God sees me.
I don’t know how Ted and I would have gotten on romantically (mutual friends suggest we would have had a rocky relationship because we were both independent and strong-willed), but we never had the chance to try.
Madeline – you and Ted shared so much through the years and were bonded like some people only hope to be. We have talked about you a lot this weekend and Traci said she’s reaching out to you soon. Then we read this reflection today. So many things aligning right now. Thank you for always being there for my brother, being his confidant, his friend, his traveling partner and so much more. You are a special woman. Much love to you for being YOU. ~teri
Thank you, Teri. Ted brought so much joy and so many blessings into my life. I am forever grateful. I remember one time when a friend walked into my house and I was on the phone with Ted and continued talking to Ted for a few more minutes. After I hung up, my friend commented on how much Ted made me laugh and how good it was to hear. Ted could easily get a laugh out of me, and I think I returned the favor (although usually he was also rolling his eyes at me). I miss him every day.