Father, May I?

Father, May I?

TD peered over the counter and eyed the last slice of quiche—which just happened to be on my plate. “Can I have it?”

Before I could hand it over, albeit grudgingly, Hubby stepped in. “You really have to start telling TD ‘No.’ Just ‘No,’ with no explanation.”

Saying “no.” As if I needed help with that phrase in this, my “Year of the No.” Well…I guess a little reminder won’t hurt.

As you know, I don’t do resolutions, but this year, I did make a decision to downsize my commitments, to deliberately say “no” more than I say “yes” so that I can rest more, write more, and invest more quality time in my family. I wanted to be more intentional about my commitments, to prayerfully consider requests for and usage of my time. But it’s hard to say no—not necessarily to TD’s request for quiche. My little people can attest to my ability to sing “No” in several keys and languages. It’s the world outside my door that I find hard to resist.

How do you say no to play dates, lunch dates, and your friends’ requests for help? How do you withdraw from ministry, classes, and leadership opportunities? Sometimes I feel like I’m slapping the well-meaning hands that feed me and binding my own helpful hands that want to return the favor. There are so many good things. Yet I know they aren’t all good for me.

And I also know I’m not the only one who struggles handling too much of a good thing. There’s a passel of beleaguered moms and dads, ministers, and well-intentioned believers who think that saying “No” is ungodly or un-Christian. Like me, when they sigh and say, “Yes,” sometimes they’re thinking, “If I must.” When they say, “No,” it’s with a niggling doubt of “…but I probably should.” The Bible’s book of James chastens early Christians, encouraging them to serve and give earnestly and joyfully, without regret or second thoughts. He instructs them—and us,

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12)

Have you ever uttered, “We’ll see” instead of “Nope”? Have you half-committed to others, promising, “I’ll think about it” versus “No, but thank you for thinking of me.”? Often, I felt like Giles Corey, crying out “More weight!” while being tortured to death. But I have to say “No” more, even though I may whisper the word in the back of my closet. God hears me. God’s got my back. He’s shown me that over-commitment wears me out and makes me unfit and unable to do what I really should be doing. I should please Him over pleasing people.

So, yes, I will hitch up my big girl pants and embrace my “Year of the No.” I will seek God for my plans and trust He will order my steps (Psalm 133:119). I’ve seen that the more I say “No” to the world and pleasing others the more I’ve heard His “Yes”—yes to speaking at a women’s retreat, yes to a book query, yes to a prayer circle, yes to peace in the storm. And okay, yes to a messier house, more cooking, and more cleaning because we’re home more.

But that’s still a big, fat, and hairy “No” to you, TD. Let me eat quiche.

“Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5, 6

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