I said “no” for the first time today.
I got a call from someone asking if I would be willing to participate in an event, with the possibility of compensation for my time. Excited at the opportunity and honored to have been considered, I told them I would check my calendar and get back to them as soon as possible.
Almost immediately, I remembered I had a conflicting commitment. Dejected, but not defeated, I pondered this commitment and started to weigh whether I could get out of it or reschedule it so I could say “yes” to this new opportunity.
The more I thought about my situation however, and began playing with the scheduling puzzle pieces in my head, the more urgently I felt this persistent knock on the door of my heart.
It’s January. The air outside is cold, but my hands are warm as I type, type, type away on my computer. Along with the New Year came fresh goals, clear visions and lofty dreams that began sprouting up and etching on my soul. My fingers danced across the keyboard to plan and pursue every new passion and commitment.
As the year progressed however, other opportunities started coming my way. At first they were small: a crack of a window opening up here, a tiny Alice-in-Wonderland door creeping open there. Slowly, more windows and larger doors began opening—to attend events, to volunteer my time, to commit to activities, to be a part of a movement, to give, to go, to join, to do.
Excitedly, hurriedly, and eagerly I responded to every single opportunity with one bellowing, enthusiastic, and resounding: “Yes!”
To everything, I said, “yes!”
For five months, it has been, “yes!”
Now, fast forward.
The knocking is at my door still…the knocking on my heart. It’s soft, but persistent—he’s waiting for an answer. I look inward, as though I were looking through the peephole to check and make sure it’s the pizza delivery guy I've been waiting for.
But it’s not Domino's.
(Yes, you know where I’m going with this)—
In that moment I sensed him nudging me, almost like he was reminding me of something. Like an elbow in my side that wasn’t painful, just annoyingly uncomfortable.
For months I had been asking myself:
“Why am I always so exhausted?”
“Why haven’t I done the things I purposed to do?”
“Why am I not taking good care of myself?”
Sadly and solemnly I looked up, and recognized that my plate was full, even when my heart wanted to make it fuller. For the first time, I faced the over-commitment in every area of my life, and saw how thinly spread I really was. One by one, all of the moments I said “yes!” and signed my name on the fictional dotted line began to roll-call through my mind, filling up the pages of my planner, and overflowing my life with pure-hearted, well-intentioned, yet life-sucking busyness.
I finally saw the answer to those questions in every acclamatory “yes!” I gave.
I had been doing the opposite of what Pastor Craig Groeschel warns about in his sermon: I Choose: Important Over Urgent. He said, “Be ruthlessly selective in your ‘yes’.” I thought to myself: “I’m being brutally careless with mine.”
Now that I have recognized this, I am able to look at every incoming opportunity objectively, and scale it against what my actual goals are in this season of life. I’m more comfortable with giving myself permission to say “no,” now that I know what it has done to repeatedly say “yes.”
Every opportunity is a gift, but not every opportunity is a gift that is meant for me.
As I meditated on this new realization, I read Acts 13:2—
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
In his commentary, David Guzik said this: “You can’t really say ‘yes’ to God’s call on your life until you say ‘no’ to things that will keep you from that call.”
The things I had committed to were good things, and it wasn’t wrong to have said “yes” to them in and of themselves. But I have found that if it’s not the path the Lord is leading me down, one that will ultimately bring me closer to Him and what He has called me to do, it’s okay—and necessary!—to turn it down.
In Jesus I have the courage to say “no,” and the ability to follow through with excellence when I’ve given my “yes.”
“We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” —Lysa TerKeurst