I just read One Thousand Gifts and in this book the author talks about "the hard no". However, she is referring to when God says no to us. (Which, by the way, I highly recommend reading this book.)
Lately I have been thinking about "no" in terms of the choices I make. Maybe it's a people-pleasing tendency, but I find myself frequently wanting to say, "yes". In fact, it has often been quite difficult for me to say, "no".
I'm starting to think that more than it is people pleasing, it is a desire to be involved, to feel like I'm living, experiencing, being a part of things. Which probably isn't a bad desire. So, when is it appropriate to say "no."?
I heard someone once say that everytime you say "no" to one thing, you are saying "yes" to other things, and vice versa. I think that helps me say no.
Right now the Lord has put a vision in my heart of something like a runner (even though I am not a runner) facing a finish line or a lover gazing at the object of their love. Or if you're a dog lover (I love dog analogies), you know the way a dog will focus on food they want? Their eyes are just glued to that food, you can move it up, down, around in circles and their eyes stay stuck to that thing because they want it so badly. When a dog is that focused on something it's hard to distract them. Sometimes to mess with my dog I would get out his leash or make some kind of noise to see if it could break his focus on that food. It rarely did.
That's what I feel like: FOCUSED. Focused on what? On the Lord, on what He wants for my life. I could say yes to so many things, but then what would I be saying no to? And how do we choose what to say no and what to say yes to?
Saying no is not always easy. There are some things that I am sincerely interested in, but if I feel they are not what I am supposed to be doing right now, how can I say yes to them? Sometimes I am tempted to feel guilty when I say no to things or like I am missing out on something, but then I remind myself that saying "yes" to those things would mean saying "no" to something else.
Right now my yeses have been few as I feel God refines my focus and gets me more and more on the path that He has created me to walk. I want to say "yes" to things, I long to say "yes", but I'm learning that my yeses have to belong to the right things. I'm learning to discern and to trust the Holy Spirit's yes & no nudgings.
Just to make this a little more concrete, here's an example (unfortunately it has to do with dating. I'm sorry.): In 2011 I have been spending the majority of my weekends alone. I don't really mind it. I read, I watch movies, I take walks, I cook fun things, I clean, I listen to music and dance around my apartment, I do Bible study, I talk on the phone, I paint. I generally have a great time...but that doesn't mean I don't get lonely and that doesn't mean I wouldn't love a friend or spouse to spend most of my time with.
A couple of days ago a guy asked me out on a date for Saturday night. I've gone on a couple of other dates with this guy in the past and I just know that he is not what I'm looking for in a spouse. So, I was posed with the question: yes or no? It seems silly to say no when I have been lonely and longing for something fun to do with someone else on a Saturday night. But what would I be saying yes to? To a man I'm not interested in romantically. To a man who is sincerely looking for a long-term relationship when I know I don't want that with him. So, while a Saturday night out with a man who is interested in me sounds fun and sounds like something I should obviously say yes to, I knew that I had to say no.
Which was not easy. It is frustrating when you are asking God to bring good things into your life, things that you can joyously say "yes!" to and instead something comes into your life that you must somewhat wistfully say "no" to because it's not what you want, but it is a shadow of what you want.
I think learning to say no at the appropriate time takes wisdom (not saying that I am wise, but maybe that I'm learning) and a groundedness in your identity in the Lord and your call to obedience to Him.
I guess I am just learning to be much more intentional. Intentioanlly intentional :) Life is full of opportunities and experiences and we could run through it like a kid in a candy shop, grabbing at anything and everything that catches our eye or feels good, but I don't think that's the best way to live.
Instead I want to very simply ask the Lord what He wants, wait for His answer, obey, and then really, truly live His plans up to the fullest. Trusting His yeses and His nos and letting them be my yeses and my nos. Even when it's hard. Because He is good.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)