Bearer of the Bitter-Burnt Casserole
No. This word has so many negative meanings and implications — no means so many things: not now, you can’t have that, no, I’m not going to do that... since when did a simple “no” imply and become so, well, negative? So bad?
Saying no is a not a bad thing.
Sure, like Brent said, in our Christian vernacular, we’re not big fans of saying no, we think for some reason that saying yes Lord YES! is the right and proper Christian response, always, without any hesitation.
But the answer — be it yes or no, isn’t always so clear-cut. And while our enthusiasm for doing things for the Lord should be evident, we also need to be wise and discerning about time, our energy level and what exactly it is we’re saying yes to.
Time and energy are a finite resource, and to be able to spend either wisely, we need to realize that some of the time, we’re going to hear no and have to say no, though we may wish we could do more.
I think we need to say a lot of yes to God and other big things in life, but in order to do so we have to say a lot of tiny no’s along the way. And we have to be able to accept this, that this concept of no isn’t a necessarily always a bad thing and realize that on the path to a perhaps a Great Big YES! are small stepping stones of no’s.
The best way, in my opinion, to get a grip on our no’s and yes’s (and to figure out if you’re saying yes to the right things and no to the right things) is to spend time with God. If we say no to him daily, what does that mean?
Well, in my experience, it means trying to find your way in life by chasing fireflies only to discover you should be going after the light of a singular sun. It means you’re a little if not lots rudderless in both career and life, and it means a whole lot of trying to figure it all out without any guidance or discernment, not unlike trying to hit a bull’s-eye on a thousand different dartboards.
And that was just my twenties!
Before I knew God, before I really grasped the concept of Him and such vast love, I said a lot of half-hearted and but-of-course-I-can yes’s. Which, the latter isn’t so bad except for the yes’s tended to be so ego and “don’t-want-to-disappoint-anyone” driven that I didn’t notice all those yes’s weren’t even in the arena of my talents.
As a result, I ended up spending a lot of time on half-baked ideas and what I ended up contributing was not much at all, and only about a fourth of the energy and enthusiasm that I needed for any particular project or task.
Or, as in one case, I ended up with an over-done, burnt casserole that in the end moved me further from God rather than closer, as is it really Christian to want to help with a pot luck while you curse the responsibility (and the oven) under your breath, and you’re bitter by the time you arrive to the potluck you volunteered to help with?
Being the Bearer of the Bitter-Burnt Casserole is perhaps not the behavior God would want me to exemplify. It’s not worth even the breath of a yes if your talent, energy or attitude won’t be able to sustain the easy slide of a “yes” commitment from your mouth.
Saying no is not a bad thing in my experience, especially in cases of casseroles or energy and time management.
And here’s a reminder if you need more compelling evidence to say no sometimes — even Jesus did it. And if He was able to say no sometimes, then I’m of the opinion that it probably isn’t a bad idea.
Several times in the New Testament Jesus took time to climb up to a mountain, or find some quiet space away from the legions of people who followed him everywhere and got up early to be still, quiet and to receive direction from God.
Even He took time to say no to others, to rest and to truly listen. And if anyone really didn’t have the time to do this, it would be Him. And here’s the other thing: the closer He got to the end of His life, the more often He did it, took time to be closer to God.
It’s anti-intuitive, isn’t it? Take time away with God to get more useful time, more energy back. No’s that lead to more energy and time for the right sort of yes’s doesn't make a whole lot of logical sense in our human terms.
But as Jesus’s life reminds us, it really isn’t about the length of your years, as much as it’s about the width of them, and where you put your time and energy matters. And it means you need to say some no’s along the way as you learn about how much time and energy you can really commit to a project or a task, and of course, if your talents are being utilized and stretched within that yes of a commitment.
It’s also a critical reminder and takes some tempering of our constant Christian need to “help out” and to remember that while God appreciates a good servant, He’s not going to hand over a big, flaming torch of a dream to a little candle who’s already burnt him or herself out at both ends.
How can you carry a God-sized dream if you’re already burnt halfway down to the wick? You need time, energy and discernment to be able to say no sometimes, so you can be able to say yes to what matters.
Sometimes no can indeed be a very good thing.