I think it was Jason Boyett who told me this story years ago when I met him in Grand Rapids at the Calvin College Writing Conference. We were collectively swooning over Eugene Peterson who was the keynote speaker. He spoke so softly that you had to lean in to hear him, and he talked about the pastor as poet, and I thought I could listen to this man forever. His combination of gentleness and brilliance was unparalleled. And what he believed language could do in the human soul was inspiring.
So here’s the story . . .
U2 and Bono were in Peterson’s hometown doing a concert. And they specifically called Eugene’s people to see if he could come and do a devotional and prayer time for Bono and the band before the concert.
At that exact time, Eugene Peterson was in the middle of paraphrasing the entire Bible we now know as The Message. He was on deadline, immersed in the book of Isaiah.
He called Bono back and said, “Sorry, no.”
Apparently, Peterson was relating this story to someone else—how Bono called and how Peterson politely had to refuse this (once-in-a-lifetime) invite.
To which his friend incredulously replied, “But it was Bono?!?!?!”
And Peterson said back, “Yes, but it was Isaiah.”
I think it’s amazing that Eugene Peterson refused Bono, but what I think is more amazing is that he had something in his life that was so worthy, even Bono wasn’t going to touch it. He felt that his work was so sacred that he couldn’t take time away from it, even for Bono.
I admire that kind of clarity in life.
Something I’ve become very clear about is that I am one of my YESes. My own health and wellbeing is as important to me as it’s ever been, and so I am much more able to say NO to things now that I see the toll certain commitments or schedules will take on my mind and body. I just don’t do it anymore. I choose myself.
And that’s mainly because my other big YESes are my family, my tribe, and my writing time. I can’t show up for those YESes if I’m a total mess. But how many times have I had to learn all this the hard way?
Is there a YES in your life that, even if Bono called tomorrow, you would protect? Is there a YES in your life that guides you to truer parts of yourself, helps you make sense of your world? Is there a YES in your life that helps to clarify your NOs? Life gains so much freedom when we gain clarity on our YES, don’t you think? Otherwise, we can be thrown around by the whims and wishes out there. But if we know our YES, the NO may not be easy, but it’s probably clear.
Here’s to the courage to find our YES and speak our NO.
I believe in you!