On Saying Yes

Jun 14, 2016

Steph Duff

It was Tuesday in India. The warmth had settled into my skin and I was finally remembering the long, intricate names of each boy and girl I had met. Bells sang softly into the thick, heated air and little girls in sweeping, colorful dresses spun wildly on the marbled floors as I was helping Ravi decorate the white surface of his tambourine. I stood up to stretch and a set of big, brown eyes caught mine; that was the moment everything shifted.

I have always loved stories. You will find me most comfortable curled under a blanket with my nose in a book. Characters in the stories I love most experience life in a way I never imagined I would; they were falling in love harder, they were experiencing greater losses, and they were lassoing their dreams promptly and sliding into them like a second skin in ways a living, breathing me simply couldn’t manage.

It was in my final quarter of college I realized the entirety of my life is a narrative; each moment celebrated, mourned, or trivial aren’t ones simply crafted for bound books, but pieces of my own story. They are threads worthy of being heard.

We are all living in the midst of plotlines worth sharing.

Sunday in India was bustling. We boarded the van and began to weave through horn-riddled traffic. The van barreled down the street with people and cows walking side by side; Small mopeds carried entire families and a goat slung across a lap. My eyes widened as I began to paint their stories in my mind. Their vibrant clothing and calm demeanors against the backdrop of angry driving left my head spinning. I couldn’t get enough. 

It didn’t occur to me a plot twist was in my immediate future.

I have always been good with kids, but as I got older, I stood firm in not wanting any of my own. This decision was only compounded when I began working in an inner city school after graduating college; I loved the kids I worked with, deeply, but was always happy to go home at the end of the day on my own.

When the Lord called me to India, I said yes, but I did so hesitantly and with heavy confusion. I had no inclination of what to anticipate upon arriving, and I certainly didn’t understand why I had to board a plane and fly across the world for something to shake loose in my life.

I was naïve in believing my story was neither Kingdom-sized nor Kingdom-worthy.

I laid down the crayon I’d been using to help Ravi and turned toward the tall boy who held my attention. He stepped forward and extended his thin arm toward me. “Hello, sister. My name is Goutham.” All the noise – the glittering bells and the rustling, vibrant fabric of the dancing dresses and the cadence of childhood laughter subsided. I did my best to choke out a hello in return, all the while, I was quite clearly receiving the answer I’d been searching for since saying yes to this unthinkable adventure.

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“It’s him. I’ve been writing you two onto the same page. You just needed to land in Hyderabad.”

Nothing I do will ever make my story Kingdom-worthy, but my Author can.

It’s been nearly a year since leaving India and a brown-eyed boy named Goutham. My heart, and life, have not looked the same since. I spent the remainder of that week listening intently to what his dreams were, watching him play Cricket with his friends, and dancing to David Crowder while waving glow sticks in the air. The week I spent in India, with its rich aromas, vivid colors, and clamorous sounds reawakened a desire to intentionally know people, learn the threads of their stories, and to familiarize myself with their passions capable of altering the bigger story.

I was once a girl content to exist within the pages of a book, living imagined life with people who will never truly know what it means to live in the world. But I put the book down, I said yes when I didn’t necessarily understand why, and He crafted sentences and arranged space for relationship, and I became open to what my King was writing for me.

I returned from that trip unsettled in the ways I had been living my life before leaving; I had a deep desire within me to put the Lord at the center of everything I was doing – and that included working in a job that was working toward, and for, the Kingdom.

It took me until my mid-twenties before I realized my story held power because of Who was in charge of it.

It is safe and comfortable to only say yes to the outcomes we can predict, but what might happen if we looked up from the fictional pages to be a witness, and active participant, in what He longs to write into our actual stories?

I said yes when He asked me to and realized the story He is writing for me is more dynamic and beautiful than anything I am capable of producing.

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Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dog, Telulah. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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