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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Power of Three Letters

The English alphabet contains 26 letters.  Virtually all English words are made up of some combination of these letters. Most of the time when we are speaking or, even, reading, we give no thought to this.  But if we slow down to think about it, human language---English or any other language---is fascinating.  It is amazing to think that we now operate with a set number of letters.  And that a vast array of words is made of various combinations of letters.

At least one English word comes from a single letter. When I self-identify, I use a single letter, “I,” and we all know I mean “me.”  In Greek it takes three letters, “ego,” and in German it takes three, “ich.”  At the other end, we know there are some English words that require many letters.  There was one long word most of us kids learned that I think may have been 28 letters, but I never bothered to check!

I have been thinking about three letter words.  I have no idea how many three- letter words there are in the English language.  What I do know is all three-letter words are not equal.  Some words are more important than others.  Let me illustrate by choosing a couple three letter-words.  One word is “the.”  On a day when I talk a great deal, I might use “the” a thousand times.  It is a good, functional word.  But it does not have much pizzazz.

On the other hand, I think of the three-letter word, “sex.”  Now that one is really loaded with meaning---all sorts of meaning.  To use that word typically involves emotions, thoughts, and all kinds of things.  It provokes reactions and, maybe, strong reactions.  It is not neutral.  So three-letter words are not equal.

As I thought about this inspirational reflection, I had a specific three-letter word in mind.  I want to explore the word, “yes.”  Yes is a word of power---maybe more power even than sex!  I think about times in my life when I heard a “yes” to a question or invitation.  What power there is released when we get a “yes” to something important.  It would be fun to think about all the crucial moments when we heard “yes.”

Hearing “yes” with respect to pregnancy can be mind-blowing.  I would like to think that I was an answer to prayer---if not my parents’ prayer, at least God.  Hearing the “yes” to the pregnancy that led to my two daughters was amazing---still is.  “Yes” to a particular college application has been a dream come true for some students.  It is fun to watch students on my campus receive “yes” to internships, jobs, and countless things they may have their hearts set on.  “Yes” to promotions, to new opportunities, etc. brightens the day of countless people I know and people around the globe.

I enjoy saying “yes” to people.  They feel good and I feel good about making them feel good.  “Yes” builds up people.  It is affirming and confirming.  I suppose most of the time “yes” and positive go together.  Effective leaders find ways to put people in positions where “yes” is the word.

All this is fun to think about.  And yet, there is one more step I would like to take.  I am sure there is a significant role “yes” in the spiritual realm, too.  As a Christian, let me frame it this way.  Is there a God?  Yes.  Does God care about and love you and me?  Yes.  Does God want the best for you and me?  Yes.  Can I know what God’s desire is for me?  Yes.

Specifically for Christians, it goes further.  I think of the various calls to discipleship Jesus offered to folks in the New Testament.  Jesus would approach someone---a guy fishing--- and ask that guy to follow him.  Yes.  Yes is the response of discipleship.  Yes is the response to relationship.  Yes is the willingness to be in community.  Yes is the obedience of some form of ministry.  When I think about ministry, I don’t think about priests and pastors---although they do ministry.  I think about the original meaning of minister---to serve.  All disciples are called into relationship and called into some form of service.

Yes is a powerful word.  In some cases, yes is a life-changing word.  I think of the early martyrs.  If asked whether they were Christian, yes meant that they would die!  That’s a costly yes.  If I am asked whether I am Christian, it is not a life or death situation.

So if my yes to discipleship is not likely to cost my life, what are the consequences of saying yes?  For most of us, it is the cost of relationship.  Perhaps the analogy is the relationship of marriage or deep friendship.  If you have said yes to one of these relationships---to marriage or deep friendship---surely there is obligation, commitment, and cost.  So it is with my relationship with God.  I have said yes and there is obligation, commitment and a willingness to pay the cost.

I am willing to give myself, my resources---whatever I have.  To say yes is not to withhold.  I cannot say yes and be stingy with my time or resources.  I am glad to say yes.  Anything less is a selfish, lonely and, finally, desperate life.

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