Not sure why this never really occurred to me before, but I was listening to a podcast about Christ calling the Disciples from a sermon series of Ginghamsburg Church, and the pastor pointed out something that should have been obvious. The Gospels list these accounts of Jesus calling the fishermen and getting the answer we expect, a resounding yes, a “they immediately left their nets and followed4.” And even in the places where people expressed skepticism about him and his ministry, they eventually came around (I’m looking at you, Nathaniel), the skepticism was quickly overcome by a recognition and acceptance.5
What she said, and again, this should have been obvious, is that Jesus must have gotten a lot of “no” in addition to all the “yes.”
I had a friend from college who was a Red Sox fan. Back in the late ’90s, Nomar Garciaparra was the shortstop for the Sox, and he was incredible. He had power, he hit for average, he had incredible hands, and unbelievable range at short.
At the same time, a guy named Derek Jeter was the shortstop for the Yankees.
Whenever we would be at a critical part in the game, when Nomar came up, well, he’d do his best, and, unsurprisingly, most of the time it wouldn’t be good enough. ‘Cause that’s baseball. Even the best of the best fail at the plate 2/3 of the time.
My friend would always say he hated Garciaparra, and that Jeter was better, no, that Jeter was clutch, and Nomar wasn’t. Every time he’d see Jeter in that situation he’d come through, my friend said.
But here’s the problem: we lived in Boston. So we saw Garciaparra for nine innings every day. We saw everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the injured. The only exposure we had to Jeter was on SportsCenter, and, yes, they call them highlights for a reason. In career stats, Nomar’s batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS were higher than Jeter’s. Yes, he hit 30 less home runs over his career, but he also played 6 fewer seasons. His 162 game average home runs were 11 higher than Jeter’s!
I’m not trying to start a Nomar vs. Jeter discussion. No, I’m just saying of course it looked like Jeter was more clutch… because we only saw the highlights.
When Jesus called his twelve, the Gospels give us stories of “yes.” But God doesn’t force us to be other than who we are, or to choose other than what we would choose. So imagine, just imagine, how many “no” answers Jesus must have received before he got his twelve!
“Nos” can be disappointing and disheartening. They can be downright alarming when you’re out there doing something risky.
But I have to think we need to learn to love the “nos” as much as we love to hear “yes.” Because in the no answers we learn. We discover, if we have the fortitude to ask, the whys. And let’s be clear, it’s been said that
The church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.6
No, I haven’t learned to love hearing no yet.
But I have learned not to let it derail me. Because the “nos” remind me of what I’m here to do, and of who I am here to reach with this incredible Good News that God loves all, and accepts all, without qualification or reservation, as we are, without demanding or expecting perfection.
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