I jerked awake. She was there still, just a few feet away. She looked at me over her crocheting and smiled. I smiled back–for a minute. Then it all came back to me, the weight hitting my chest like a heavy hand shoving me back into my seat. It wasn’t over yet, either.
I looked at the clock. Nine PM? I had work to do! I couldn’t be still sitting there! I hadn’t even been out for my nightly run. Well, it would have to wait. Like everything else today, the essential would have to give way to the urgent.
No. I looked over at the Lovely Lady again and said, matter-of-factly, “I’m going for a run.”
The day had seemed like one no after another. Some days are like that. Every phone call, every person who walked through the door needed something for which the answer was no.
“Can you buy this from me?”
“Do you have time to repair this?”
“Is it possible for you to help me with this problem?”
“Will I be able to get that by tomorrow?
One by one, the noes were pried from my lips, some after agonized thought on my part, others with no doubt that they had to be said.
It was a day piled high with that tiny negative word. Not just piled high. The mountain of noes threatened to bury my spirit in an avalanche of negativity.
No. Such a short, unpretentious word. Yet it is also a final, authoritative one, ending more communication than any other word in the English language. I had repeated it more times than I could count.
By the day’s end, I was grouchy and even argumentative, drawing customers into my contrary morass. I may even have attempted to trap the Lovely Lady in my cynical mood, but she was too wily to be enticed, taking the high ground.
“I’m going for a run.” I said the words rebelliously, as if I might get an argument from her, while she smiled at me from her seat on the couch.
“You may get wet.” She wouldn’t argue, knowing the futility of that exercise.
She was right. It was as if the world itself was shouting a huge NO at me as I jogged away from my front door. The wind tugged at my tee shirt and shorts, the drops of moisture it raked over me dampening my body as much as my already low spirits within the first block.
I persevered. Stubborn isn’t always a bad character trait.
After a quarter mile of running against the wind and rain, I turned the corner. Suddenly, the wind was at my side, the moisture it held merely a sprinkle to cool a rapidly warming body at work. This wasn’t so bad. My spirits lifted a little.
Another half mile and I turned another corner. With this turn, the wind was completely behind me. But now, I had a decision to make. Would I take the turn at the next block and follow the detour marked out by the road signs? The bridge over the pretty little creek that winds through our downtown has been in the process of reconstruction for the last year and a half. It is an annoyance at best. For the folks who have to traverse the roads downtown by auto, it has been an extreme inconvenience. I am tired of the way being blocked.
Tonight, I looked ahead to where the signs barricading the road stood and saw something different. Yesterday, there had been a wire fence between the signs. Tonight, nothing spanned that space. And–was that a white line on the pavement there? It was.
You will think it a very small thing, but it seemed to me that I had finally found one single yes in a day full of one no after another. I wasn’t about to turn back now. Following the new line painted on the pavement, I ran onto a section of road I hadn’t tread on for over a year. Even though it was late at night, the darkness in my spirit seemed to catch a glimpse of a light shining ahead.
The line on the road ran straight across the surface of that brand new bridge, without a barrier to be found anywhere. I don’t know if any laws were being broken, but I tell you, I couldn’t have cared less in that moment. I ran across that new bridge that I’ve never crossed before. I was tempted to stand and jump up and down in the center of it with my arms raised above my head victoriously, much like Rocky in the movie from the seventies. You would have laughed at me and I would have laughed right along with you.
This was definitely a YES!
A tiny yes, but a yes nonetheless. The mountain of noes had tumbled down on my head in an avalanche all day, but in the midst of them, this minuscule yes pushed its way through and brought a hint of the positive. It was enough.
I ran on. A mile later, another corner was turned. As was to be anticipated, with this turn, the wind and the water hit me in the face once more. Another three quarters of a mile and I turned to face the original direction again and really felt the bite of the wind and its little liquid missiles. I would face it all the way home.
It didn’t matter. One yes in a sea of no was all it took. I could not be swayed back to the dark side.
Yes! The word is not much larger than its counterpart, but one glimpse of it tonight was enough to give me a fresh run at a world full of no. I will face that world again tomorrow with new hope.
Tomorrow is upon me as I write these words. Even tonight, I have already begun to work through another huge no, but the mountain is surmountable. Yes will be here again.
I’ll just keep moving through the negative.
I hope, like the rain tonight, or even like water off the back of the proverbial duck, there will be no lasting effect.
One always has hope. I think, perhaps, it will also be enough.
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative;
Latch onto the affirmative;
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
(from Accentuate the Positive by Johnny Mercer ~ American songwriter ~ 1909-1976)
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances…”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a ~ ESV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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