A Holy No

Just say no for Jesus. Nancy Reagan would love it. You see, we swim in the midst of opportunity. It surrounds us like oxygen. Chances to give, to serve, to help. Most of the time we keep our eyes focused on the road ahead of us, windows up, radio blaring, in order to avoid those chances crowding the roadside like so many beggars. We choose not to see to avoid suffering the guilt of saying no to helping those in need.

Then we spend some time with You. We open our eyes, or You open them for us. We see the world in need rushing by, just outside the glass cages in which we live. Either we are overwhelmed and give up, returning gratefully, shamefully to Kubrik’s vision of eyes of wide shut. Or we start doing.

And our doing becomes our undoing. Because we can never do enough. But at least we feel better, having contributed our busy little part to doing nothing. “Remember the story of the starfish,” we shout over our shoulders, running on to the next good deed. “Made a difference for that one!”

So we immerse ourselves in the busy-ness of the good, which precludes and prohibits us from ever attempting the great. We become so busy doing good we never stop to listen to You, to what You may be calling us, to the direction You might give.

Screw the starfish. Why spend our lives throwing back starfish one at a time? Why not dig a whole new beach?

We must be willing to say no. No to the good. And it’s hard precisely because it’s the good. Easy to say no to the dumb, or boring, or trivial. But the good? Ah, so much harder. Yet every time we say yes, we limit other possibilities, other opportunities we may be too busy to notice.

The worst part is we don’t limit only ourselves. Every time I over-work, over-reach and over-commit, I diminish the possibilities for someone else. We’re so busy running around trying to do everything we don’t leave room for anyone else to do anything.

I know. I know. I can hear you now. You don’t want to do it all, but no one else will step up. You have to do it or it won’t get done at all.

Did you ever consider that if it doesn’t get done, maybe it wasn’t worth doing in the first place?

Sometimes we have to create room for things to fail in order to discern what truly should be done.

It’s not that little things are not worth doing. The question is not whether the good things should be done. The question is whether you should be the one doing them. If you hire Picasso to fix your plumbing you do a grave injustice to God’s creation (and probably get a lousy plumber). Hire a plumber and let Picasso paint, for God’s sake!

We must say no to opportunities and chances and possibilities beyond number. We must say no, because only if we say no and no and no again will we ever be able to shout YES!

We must wait. Ooh, but it’s hard. Waiting. Patiently. Actively. Expectently.

We must listen. Ooh, that’s harder. Listening. For God’s still small voice in the midst of the winds of busy-ness. We must be still and quiet in order to hear.

We must let God do His part. Let Him call us, direct us, command. Then and only then comes our yes. And our doing becomes a holy doing, not the worthless striving and vain, inglorious man. But the holy work of a righteous God.

There we find our purpose, our meaning, our true calling. There, living into the holy yes, we dance in greatness instead of settling for merely good enough. Living into God’s yes begins with a holy no.

About revjayg

Episcopal priest, church planter, writer and partner in the gospel looking to connect a faith that matters with real life. View all posts by revjayg

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