“She hears no voice, accepts no correction; In the LORD she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near… You need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me.” – ZEP 3:2,11
In Improv training, actors are taught the “yes, and” principle: to accept what is happening as reality and build off of that new information. This creativity and receptiveness is part of what makes improv spontaneous and fun. My daughter, on the other hand, takes the “yes, but” approach to any direction, correction, or vain pleading.
Me: “It’s time to clean up the toys.”
Her: “Oh, but the [imaginary] cat is still eating those legos for a snack.”
Also me: “It’s time for a bath.”
Also her: “Yes, but, I’m Clare the Cat. Clare the kid is on vacation.”
Still me: “Okay, there is no more dessert today. I keep catching you eating chocolate chips out of the baking supplies.”
Still her: “Oh, that was Clare the Cat. I am Clare the Kid again and I have not had any dessert today.”
From an Improv sketch, this might be hilarious. In real life, the whole ordeal is infuriating, pull your hair out, crazy-making, frustration. She is relentless. When St. Ignatius talks about the false spirit wearing you down like a petulant child, this is the scenario he is referring to. It is not overtly evil, blatantly disregarding authority. She looks at me so sweetly, with a hopeful look in her eye, as if to say, “I bet you never thought of that?!” I resign myself to the fact that a four-year-old has already outsmarted me. I give in to her far more than I should because I am just so tired. Her “Yes, but…” closing off listening, cooperation, and co-creation.
“Yes, and…” she is four. “Yes, and…” she is not an Improv actor. She is learning her ability to imagine, to impact the world around her. It is all necessary and – ultimately – good; but it is hard for the parent calling a daughter to listening, cooperation, and co-creation.
And then in all humility, I realize that I am no better in my conversations with God. He just doesn’t give in to me the way I relent and give in to her. God is not wearied in the same way I am.
God: “You’ve been coasting along and not really allowing yourself to grow.”
Me: “Yes, but next year.”
Also God: “I know you are frustrated and discouraged right now. What is it that you are needing right now?”
Also me: “Yes but, let me moan and lament all the hard things a little longer. I am not really willing to fix them.”
Still God: “I love you just as you are. There is no need to change. I just want you to enjoy deeper peace, greater life, and gentle hope.”
Still me: “Yes but, that is scary and hard.”
The further we push God away, the more adrift we feel, and the harder it can be to realign ourselves. In the season of Advent, the readings invite us to make greater room to listen and hear God’s voice. When I read the line “She hears no voice, accepts no correction; In the LORD she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near…” I felt like I was hearing myself complain about my daughter. But more importantly, a few verses later, the prophet Zephaniah reminds us, “You need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me.”
God takes all of Clare’s (and my) excuses, faults, and shortcomings and continues to reply, “Yes, and I still love you.”