…but now I think it’s a blessing of epic proportion. You see I, like many others (maybe even you, dear one), have long been a people-pleaser who just can’t seem to utter the word “no” when asked to do something—anything. It’s taken me many, many years to realize I can decline and still be a Christian. I can defer and still be a nice person. I can say “no thank you” and still be friends. But goodness me, it’s a lifelong lesson… and one I’m still in the process of working on. And not always with success, just so you know.
How come it’s so hard to actually say, “Thanks, but no thanks”? In church life particularly, why is “no” such a no-no? Where does this innate need to say “yes” to everyone and everything stem from? I’m sure it happens in all spheres of life, but I can attest to it in Christian circles (particularly as a pastor’s kid!), and I know for a fact that I am not alone. I think the “no” phobia is often birthed in a small church setting, where there may be a congregation of fifty but only six are willing to serve. Actually, come to think of it, that can be the case in a church of three hundred, too! 🙂 If you happen to be one of the “can’t say no” six, the result is spreading yourself wafer thin in a bunch of ministries, which are not necessarily your gifting or skill set or calling. Major problem: when the husband can’t say no either. You are a match made in heaven, with somewhat hellish consequences.
What ends up happening when neither of you can say “no”? Life gets CRAZY. Super crazy. Oh, let’s say for example: husband preaching, both leading worship, both leading Sunday school, youth at your house on Sunday nights, you lead moms and tots group, have three kids under the age of ten, husband with ridiculously busy career, you home schooling. We lived to tell the tale, and we are definitely not an anomaly. They were amazing times with wonderful memories (I think they were—it’s a bit foggy), but I can’t help thinking if we had said “no” to some if it—and said yes to our passions and delved into where God really wanted us to serve, maybe life would have been more fruitful. Not so utterly crazy. Maybe less regrets to beat ourselves up with…
“I’m just a girl who cain’t say no”
Not like the sweetie in Oklahoma with guy issues, but with anyone who wants me to do something good, helpful, meaningful, or even fru-fru. I hate confrontation, so I would rather say “yes”. (Sometimes through my teeth.) Truth is, I like saying yes—it makes me feel needed and helpful and good at stuff. There are PLENTY of things I will say yes to in a heartbeat. I dearly want to serve God in whatever way He sees fit, but in the past there were many things I agreed to out of obligation/ guilt/ nobody else would do it… and they nearly always ended with me feeling deflated or inept. Would saying “no” really have been so bad? Could someone else have taken my place and been blessed by it even, perchance?
Turns out, there CAN be blessing in saying no sometimes, in the form of learning what makes you tick and what drowns you. Maybe it’s a case of maturity and maybe it’s a case of exhaustion, but the older I get, the more I feel able to take the time to make better decisions. Back in the day, I was THAT puppy dog who nodded excessively and ran for every stick tossed, desperate to do “the right thing”, which turned out to be “everything”.
Silly younger me. None of us are expected to say “yes” to every single opportunity, need, favour, and request thrown at us. It’s just not possible for a balanced life. We are beautiful human creations with limits and talents and abilities and gifts. Some of us are confident in this and can say “no” without an avalanche of guilt. Man, I wish my skin would thicken up. Saying “no” shouldn’t be so stressful. Even the bulldog has it down:
Me: “Lily, please could you move so a human can sit on the sofa?”
Not a flinch. But some of us simply can’t decline, and begrudgingly take on tasks at the expense of our little families. And they are only little for a very short while, trust me. Some of us have that nagging feeling that we need to be perpetual doers and serve at every given opportunity just to be sure we are being seen as “good Christians”, even though we know all about the grace.
Here’s a no brainer it took me eons to implement—when you are asked to invest your time and talents in something, DON’T GIVE AN ANSWER RIGHT AWAY. Give yourself time to go away and pray, talk to your family, seek wisdom from others, sleep on it. You won’t be thought less of and you won’t be struck by lightening. I promise. And if you do have to eventually answer with a big, fat NO, it’s okay. It’s really not a swearword. It can truly be a blessing—in declining, you might have given someone else the opportunity to serve in your place—allowing them to say a hearty “yes”.
I love this:
“Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have fully heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.” Elisabeth Elliot, The Glad Surrender
Ahhh, I need to hear when HE is calling me to do something. This is KEY and I am still learning, still growing, still figuring out life, just like you. I long to use my time wisely, and be listening always for when God wants me to say “yes”. Because I don’t want to miss out on the yeses He has for me…
A work in progress, who now sometimes (but not terribly often) says “NO”—
Linking up with Sarah Bessey’s “I used to think ____ but now I think _____.” [an #OutofSortsBook synchroblog] in celebration of her brand new book Out of Sorts!
Also linking up with these fabulous encouragers: