What Do You Do When You Don’t Want to Do Something?

I did the children’s story in worship at the church I belong to last Sunday? I didn’t exactly want to say yes, but I did. I never feel like I’m at my best with children, and even as a child sometimes felt like I related better to adults. But I was struck by something I read in Kathleen Norris’ book Acedia and Me last week. She wrote about saying yes when asked at church even to things she wasn’t particularly good at, as a spiritual practice. And of course I did children’s stories as a pastor almost every week for years, so it’s not like putting on a dinner for 150 (something I really wouldn’t be good at).

Saying yes in a thoughtful way, for a reason, to something you don’t particularly want to do, is not the same as a compulsive, overfunctioning yes. It’s important, though not easy, to make this distinction. Spiritual growth can come when we gently open ourselves to people and tasks we don’t necessarily like. And I actually enjoyed my few moments with the children in worship, and feel a bit better connected with them. (While enjoyment may not be the point of this practice, it’s a nice by-product when it happens.)

What do you have to do this week that you don’t want to do? Can you welcome it instead of resisting it?

2 replies on “What Do You Do When You Don’t Want to Do Something?

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Jason, thanks for these thoughts. I do thinking saying yes and saying now requires ongoing discernment. As you note, it’s important not to function for others. At the same time, in every job and in our personal lives we all have things to do we don’t particularly enjoy. I think it’s a spiritual practice to learn how to open ourselves up to those aspects of life instead of simply resisting them.

  • Rev Jason Gamble

    “Who I am” and “What I am here to do” are very helpful things to state in virtually all relationships.
    I liked most of the classes I took at San Francisco Theological Seminary and I did relatively well academically during my M Div years. My transcripts are a list of subjects that I value as part of my pastoral makeup. They are an important record of me defining self as a seminarian. I’ve thought of keeping a copy of my transcripts in my pocket whenever I’m around the church to show church folks what I’m actually qualified to do, simply because I get lots of requests to do things I’m not qualified to do or lots of requests to function for someone else.
    Someone wanted to show a dvd on a projector during worship. I was supportive, but not qualified to set up such technology. I did help with the sound, ultimately, even though I did not want to, since they struggled last minute to amplify the laptop computer and I had a solution.
    During the Passing of the Peace recently an elderly member of the church tried to give me an instruction manual to a radio controlled clock that he had donated so that I could take on the job of replacing the batteries and making sure it was right after daylight savings time changes. I declined that invitation and suggested he pass it on to a member of the building committee.
    Jesus did wash feet, John’s gospel tells us, but only once and for the purpose of defining self and the nature of being one of his disciples.


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