Bethany House Publishers, 2015, 208 pp., $12.33
I majored in electrical engineering in college, a major that seemed logical for me because I was good at math and science and knew that engineering could lead to a lucrative job. The problem was that engineering definitely was not the career to which God was calling me. That was youth ministry.
It’s a call I fought hard. My senior year, I commented to my small group girls, “I think God’s calling me to youth ministry, not engineering; but for that to happen, He’s going to have to slam every electrical engineering door shut in my face.”
That’s exactly what He did. So, ever-so-reluctantly, I started applying for youth ministry jobs. Within a couple of weeks, I had a couple of different job offers. Left with no other choice, I finally said yes to God. I’ve been in youth ministry ever since.
Because of my own adventure in saying yes, I was excited to read Carl Medearis’ book, Adventures in Saying Yes: A Journey from Fear to Faith.
This book—which is part memoir, part Christian-living—chronicles the Medearis’ journey in saying yes to God, an adventure that landed them in Lebanon as missionaries. Because one of the major roadblocks to saying yes to God is fear, as Carl shares his journey he also examines what causes fear, as well as strategies for overcoming it. One insight Carl shares is how “worry (fear’s half-brother) brilliantly masquerades as helpful information.” According to Carl, you can distinguish between the two because “Helpful information and godly wisdom will lead to positive action, freedom, loving others, faith and hope. Fear that breeds worry, on the other hand, will lead to paralysis, hatred, anger, irrational decisions and avoidance of those you’re called to love.”
In Carl’s experience, the secret to overcoming fear is saying yes. When we say yes, we draw closer to Jesus. Carl suggests, “To enter his kingdom, we must become like children, Jesus said. What if God knows we’re all afraid, and he’s okay with it? He just wants us to come to him with our fears and insecurities and get the needed affirmation there…Maybe at the feet of the Father is where we can find courage again.”
Aside from fear and courage, another recurring theme in Adventures in Saying Yes is hospitality. One thing I greatly appreciated about Carl’s insights into this is the respect with which he deals with the Middle Eastern culture, openly sharing how much he learned from this culture about hospitality and how that, in turn, better shaped his understanding of Jesus’ extravagant hospitality. In his words, “Even the metaphors so often used in the Gospels of Jesus being the bread, water, salt and light can all be read through the lens of good hospitality.”
As a youth pastor and new parent, though, the chapter I loved most was actually not about fear or about hospitality. It was about parenting. In it, Carl addresses the question, “What if your kids didn’t choose the adventure you’re on because you said yes?” Any parent or pastor will find this chapter, which also includes helpful wisdom from his wife and three children particularly thought-provoking.
Regardless of whether you’re struggling to say yes to following God across the world as Carl and his family did or into a new career as I did, Adventures in Saying Yes will challenge and encourage you to follow Jesus wherever that may lead you, knowing that doing so will enable you to know and love the Jesus who is—not the One you’ve made up in your head.