Somewhere along the line in our lives, we embrace the idea that it is better to say yes when asked to do something than to say no. Teens,young adults, and middle-aged people find themselves, due to this constant willingness, exhausted, unfocused, and even resentful when asked to do yet another "thing.” And before we go any further, let me say that I was and am guilty as charged of saying yes too often. However, a wise friend taught me an invaluable lesson and it is my goal to introduce you to the wonderfully freeing habit of saying no.
When Joe and I had been married a while, we were extremely active in our church, doing missions work, as well as teaching Bible studies, leading worship, and teaching Sunday School. Oh yes, we also both worked full time. Our parents were all alive and we lived in the same town, so naturally we were invited to family get togethers. I have a clear memory of telling my mother on a September morning that we did not have a free weekend until Christmas. This information was not given in a sensitive manner and was received very poorly. This is NOT an example of a holy no, and much damage was done by our zeal and passion. It took years to restore our relationship.
Jump forward a number of years. We still are very involved in our church, still have no children, still have parents we are trying to honor, still working full time. The phone rings and it is the husband of a family we know who do have children and he was calling to see if we could babysit for them. Imagine a long awkward silence on my end. I informed him that I would have to talk to Joe and would get back to him shortly. When Joe and I looked at our calendars for work, church, family, alone time there was barely a space to be had. The one crack on the ongoing litany of activity was, naturally, the time we were being asked to babysit. We decided that no was the appropriate response in this instance. So, I called back to deliver our answer. Imagine the long awkward silence on the other end. Then came the sermon on carrying each other's burdens, caring for one another, etc. That relationship was also scarred for many years, but it is an example of a holy no.
As the years went by, we got asked to do more and more things. Some fit nicely with our skill sets. Some not at all. My favorite request didn't even come to me directly. There was a need in our daughters' school for a girls' soccer coach for the JV team. Our oldest daughter, Katie, was at that particular stage. All the parents waited and prayed for someone to step forward. I thought my husband would have been a good coach or one of the P.E. teachers. No one heard the call until one fall morning I had an alarming thought,"You do it!" “What? I had never played organized sports in my life. I knew nothing about soccer. I didn't even own athletic clothing. But the thought persisted. So I volunteered. A friend wrote out drills for me, my husband did chalk talks, but I was the coach. And I got it in my head that I needed to be able to do whatever I was asking the girls to do. I ran with them, juggled the ball (terribly), demonstrated the drills for them, and we all laughed until we couldn't breathe. I am not sure if we won any games, but it was a winning season because we learned and progressed. This is an example of a holy yes.
The next fall, Katie and a few of her cohorts, were asked to play on the Varsity team and the coach asked me to be the assistant coach. I was elated, overjoyed, thrilled...and I instantaneously said yes. As the season began, one of my dear friends asked me how Katie felt about my new position. I hadn't asked her, but assumed she was fine. However, before preseason started I asked her point blank, "Are you OK with this?" Again that long awkward silence for which I was completely unprepared. Her answer cut me to the quick. "It is all about what side of the line you are on, and I really would prefer that it is not the same side as me. I want you to be behind the line that defines the field." I was dumbstruck. My husband worked at the school, her siblings went to the school, I volunteered at the school.
So the choice came down to honoring her request or abiding by a decision that made me feel needed, sporty, helpful, seen. This is an example of a holy no. I chose my daughter over my ego. I chose to hear her instead of forcing my will. She needed a place where none of her family members were right beside her. So I said no to coaching and yes to Katie. And I knew I made the right choice.
These days we are asked to do multitudinous things. We still look at our lives and our calendars, and we don't say no just go get out of doing things we don't do well, but to be good stewards of our time . An answer of no is just as holy as a call to say yes. And one extremely helpful hint: if whomever is asking you to commit to something can not wait for an answer, say no.