Friday, April 24, 2009

Conviction: Saying no to a good thing

Some time back, Mike and I heard about an indie documentary making the rounds called, "Call and Response." It's in that trendy genre of documentaries that are advancing a specific cause, usually attempting to bring awareness to an injustice being suffered somewhere in the world.

We didn't even see it, just heard about it. That was enough for Mike to say, "I can't see that film. Then I'll have another thing to feel convicted about, and I'll have to do something."

I resonated with that. Don't you? There are a lot of good causes out there.

Yesterday, at work, we had a presentation from a group called "The Lost Boys Rebuilding in Southern Sudan." I already told their stories to some other friends. The Lost Boys gained notariety from, among other things, a 60 Minutes episode devoted to their story. 27,000 boys under the age of 13 fled their homes to avoid being killed by the government. They travelled 3 months, 1000 miles, to Ethiopia. They faced threats of lions, hyenas, and crocodiles. Many were killed by these predators as they tried to escape the hunt of their fellow human beings.

That was the late 80s. They were my age. While I was going to kindergarten and coloring pictures and playing cowboys and indians, they were fending off man and animal. Now, they've grown up into men, my peers. They're using their notariety to gain support and build new schools and dig new wells in southern Sudan. These are good things, great causes, worth my time, energy, money, and conviction.

I feel like Mike though. I can't be convicted about every good thing that cross my path. I can't spread myself that thin emotionally or financially. I don't let myself be.

But I could do more than I do now. I'm so privileged. But where do I draw the line? I know I could do more, but when am I doing enough? Is it ever enough? No. But at what point do I start saying no to good things?

Instead I default to saying no unless I'm really compelled to say yes. Maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe yes should be my default. Does anyone out there have a good paradigm they use for choosing?


Carrie said...

One bit of advice I have learned as of late is to say no can always say yes later. I think there's something to be said to be quick to help others and to say yes to various areas of need, but you need to know your own limits. You won't be able to help others if you can't take care of yourself. On the other hand, ppl have been telling me to put myself first right now...and that does not sit well with me either. You're taught to be selfless, but if you don't take care of yourself, you end up being selfish. It's what we all struggle with...balance. Being able to discern what are the best things from many good things and those areas of God's calling in your life. More isn't always better...many times less is more. And God uses weak things to accomplish things of great strength.

Adam said...

Thanks Carrie! You said it very well. An interesting strategy. It's certainly a paradox we have to sort through.

Dan said...

I have felt like Mike at times. Usually it comes out with me saying, "I don't want to go downtown. I can't deal with the homelessness issue." I just have to avoid it.

I'm in the same boat as you, I think. I like Carrie's comment about balance. There's got to be some truth in that.