The first word most babies learn is “No”. We start telling them no pretty much as soon as they become mobile.
“No, no! Don’t hit, Sis.”
“No, no! Don’t touch the stove!”
“No, no! Don’t eat the doggie food!”
And so it goes. No to this, no to that. Pretty soon, those little tots are waddling around chanting, “No, no, no…”
Why do we say no so much? Because we love our babies and want to make sure they are safe and not hurting themselves, and of course not doing disgusting things like eating puppy food...or poop...it happens...so I've heard...
However, we do not extend this same kindness to ourselves. When we need to say no for our own benefit, we often fail. I don’t know if this just a problem for women, but it seems that just about every woman I talk to says she’s busy. She’s overwhelmed with things that she’s committed to but doesn’t feel like she can set any of them down. The usual response to, “How are you?” Is “Busy.”
Why is that, do you think? Why are we all so busy all the time?
I think there are two main reasons. I'm going to present the first one now, and the second will be coming soon in a following post, along with ways we may need to practice saying no.
The first reason for our inability to say no is fear. Fear drives us to fill up our life with busy work. Our fear of what people will think if we tell them no keeps us enslaved to a schedule that is harming us instead of helping us. We may find that we are sacrificing our gift of time on the altar of approval. Yikes...
It’s no secret that we live in a culture and time of history that is busier than ever. When modern conveniences were just coming on the market, the intent was that they would save us time so we could live more leisurely lives. Washing machines were meant to save us time by washing the clothes for us. So it is with the dish washer, microwave, pre-packaged food and hundreds of other little gadgets and gismos that now come standard with the American life. But…we don’t always make the best use of all this time we are supposedly saving. Instead, we fill up our time with busy to the point that we often don’t have time to be with the people we are doing all of this extra stuff for. Families are spending more hours away from each other then ever before, and mom's with teenagers have told me it only gets worse as they get older...gulp! Everyone has their own schedule to keep and mom is usually the one that organizes it all. And that’s a serious juggling act. Some moms’ skill at organizing schedules are an absolute work of art with color-coded calendars and everything. It’s truly beautiful. I’m not that mom. I’m the mom who suddenly realizes she forgot that today is the day for that birthday party that she never RSVP’d to and is hunting under the fridge in hopes that the invitation she can’t find is under there somewhere. But my lack of organization isn’t really the point here…ahem.
When we lack the courage to say no, even to people we love, we sometimes end up hurting ourselves.
But the greatest tragedy is the damage it does to our ability to steward what God has entrusted to us. We are responsible for how we utilize all the resources and gifts God has given us, and that includes our time. When we say yes to everything that comes along, we are left with little time to say yes to the work God has for us to do. Sometimes we have to say no, even to things that are good, so that we can say yes to the work God has purposed us to do. This is hard, and I admittedly am not an expert at this. But I truly want to get better at it. I know that a yes to another event means a no to time with my family, to work that I know God has told me to do, or to much needed rest that will help me to keep serving others. I have to consider seriously if that's a trade I'm willing to make. I have to ask myself, "Is the return on this investment worth it?" I rarely regret the time I spend with my family and our mission in this world together. I never regret time spent with others for the purpose of God's kingdom and the joy of friendship. The return on that investment has eternal dividends! But there have been many times I have regretted committing to other activities out of fear or obligation. The return on those investments is usually very small or none at all.
Take a minute to read through Matthew 25:14-29. We find a parable here that Jesus told about three servants who were entrusted with talents. You’ve most likely heard this story before, but please don’t skip through and miss it.
The two men who took the talents they were entrusted with, invested them, and were commended by their master. The one who didn’t…well the master said some not nice things to him and then took his talent and gave it the first guy.
The point of this story is that God is like the master who has entrusted us with resources like money, abilities, spiritual gifts, and yes, time. How we use these resources for his kingdom greatly affect God’s willingness to entrust us with more. We are the same way as parents, right? When I need a job done, I’m not going to ask the kid that I know will do a sloppy, half-hearted job (sometimes I will for practice sake) but usually I will go to the kid that has proven to me that she will take care of business and get it done. I'm willing to trust her with more because she's proven she will be faithful with it. I don’t want to be the sloppy kid. I want to be trustworthy.
When we lack the courage to say no, we are like the servant who said he was fearful and hid the talents. Fear produces apathy. It is easier to say yes to the things others are pressuring us to do and be apathetic in our obedience to God. It takes a lot of courage to say yes to God’s thing! It takes hard work and perseverance. Sometimes it even means disappointing people you care about and hold in high esteem. I don’t like that. I don’t like not being liked. Michael Scott and I kind of have that in common. But, if that person really cares about you, they will be more understanding of your no. If they love you, they will want what’s best for you. It might even give them the courage to say no to some things, too.
We cannot risk being foolish stewards. The ramifications of foolish stewardship are a little daunting (I believe the phrase “gnashing of teeth” is used in this passage). So this seems like a pretty serious lesson for us to learn.
My prayer for us today, is that we would not be enslaved to the fear of other’s expectations. I pray that we will have the courage and wisdom to say no to the unnecessary things so that we can say yes to the things of God. May we be trustworthy with all the gifts and resources God has put in our hands so that we may glorify him and live out the purposes and plans he has for us while we still have the time to do it!
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matt. 25:23