My mom just got a puppy. He’s the cutest little yorkipoo ever; his name is Rascal…for good reason. He’s in the biting/teething stage of puppy-ness, and I found myself saying “no” to him quite a bit the other day….
When was the last time you said “no?”
It’s the season of recruiting people to serve in various ministry settings in the church, especially for the fall/school year. I’ve received two “no”s already, to which I responded, “thank you.”
I took my youth to a conference youth event this weekend, SpiritUs, where the AMAZING Jeremy Steele encouraged participants to say “NO” to those names and labels that we’ve been given or that we’ve given ourselves that tear us down. He said, that is NOT who you are. You are made in the image of God. God created you, and you are good.
In a very engaging session, he also destroyed some cinderblocks with the words “popularity” “race” “poverty” and “hatred” written on them, calling on participants to say “NO” to injustice, to say “NO” to those things which keep us from acting on our faith. He inspired participants to “get angry” about injustices and to allow God to use that anger to make a difference.
A good friend of mine recently left a job because of a toxic workplace environment.
Another good friend of mine recently changed the locks of their home because of an abusive partner.
Somewhere in our culture we were taught that saying “no” is bad. We learn that saying “yes” to people gets us “ahead” in life and perhaps gets people to like us or respect us, whereas saying “no” means we are lazy or noncommital or apathetic. Through experience we come to find that saying “yes” gives us adrenaline and purpose, and too many “yeses” leaves us addicted to the feelings that stress gives us, to the point where our bodies NEED to feel stressed in order to accomplish things. (Any other recovering stress addicts out there?)
It took years for me to learn how to say no. My college Dean once told me, “The world will still go on if you don’t accomplish anything on your to-do list today.” Those wise words keep me honest in times where my schedule tempts to control me.
Another thing that has convicted me about saying “no” these past few years is death. On a busy fall week with lots of meetings, my grandfather’s death meant jumping on a plane and either delegating or rescheduling things. On the Monday of Holy Week, my father’s death meant spending Good Friday at a receiving of friends, and Easter Sunday driving to Alabama for a funeral service. In late January, as people were easing back into rhythm after Christmas Break and gearing up for winter retreats and spring events, I was mourning the loss of my grandmother. All these experiences caused me to stop and reflect on my busy life and consider what I was saying “yes” to. What was most important for me to be doing in those times of grieving? Where was it important for me to be? It forced me to consider my priorities in life and how I spent the valuable (and limited) resources of time, money, and energy.
In the Church we are often too quick to fill leadership roles that we forget to check in with people to see how their lives are going, to consider how full their plate is, and perhaps to either not ask them to do one more thing, or to give them space to say “no.”
We cannot say “yes” to everyone or everything all the time. In fact, God calls us to say “no” to all kinds of things. Injustice, abuse, hatred, evil, oppression – just to name a few.
What do you need to say “no” to in your life right now? How can you show love and grace to yourself and those whom you love most dearly by saying “no” to something?