God only No(s)!
The spiritual practice of saying ‘No.’
How do you feel when you say ‘No’? Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you worried you will be judged or disappoint someone? Many of us struggle with saying ‘No.’ Have you ever considered saying ‘No’ to be a spiritual practice? We use spiritual practices to help draw closer to the divine, to feed our relationship with the holy, to deepen our understanding of God and to strengthen our relationships in community. They enable us to serve the needs of the world. Saying ‘No’ can help us do these things and more.
We are called to be people of God, fully engaged in the business of living. The third century bishop, Irenaeus expressed it this way, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” For us to be fully alive, we must strike a balance between giving and resting, serving and restoring, of ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’ Restoration and renewal are part of the journey. No one can go on giving, serving, and doing, without rest. We have the example of Jesus himself drawing away from the crowds, to be restored. Jesus finds quiet places, to be renewed to be ready for the next encounter with the needs of the world. We too need to make time for ourselves to be restored.
We live in a time of change. The church is changing, discerning what to prune and what to plant. When we tend to the plants that grow in our gardens, we cut branches and pull weeds, saying ‘No’ to some in order to see the greatest well-being for the whole garden. In our own lives, we can choose what to prune to allow ourselves to thrive. Part of living fully is discerning when and where to share of ourselves. Where can I have the greatest impact? Where can I serve those in need? When am I being called to step into the unknown and do something that scares me? When am I being recharged? When do I need to step back, retreat to a quiet place, and be restored?
In caring for our spirit, ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ are entwined in a dance of give and take. The very act of discernment involves listening for the quiet invitation from God. What is interesting about our ‘No’ is that it brings along with it the opportunity for another person’s ‘Yes.’ When we leave space open, we provide the opportunity for someone else to engage with the needs of the community, and for them to arrive at ‘Yes.’ It takes a village, and the more people we involve, the more we can accomplish. We are companions on the journey, sharing life, our gifts and our love for our communities and the world. Let us embrace the calling of the Holy One, discerning where to share our talents and treasure, and where to leave space for others to join in. May the constant dance of your ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ bring you strength, joy, flourishing and fulfilment.