Thursday, April 15, 2010

When No Is Yes

He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field..." Luke 10:2

This work in the hospital sometimes seems endless. There is always more to do, more patients to visit, more staff to visit, more families to comfort. So this week, I'm taking some on-purpose time off.

A recent article in Weavings by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre resonated for me. Her article reminds me that while there are many big No's

("...such as no to Romes' false gods, no to readings of scripture that serve special agendas, no to the state when it threatens honest worship, oppresses the poor, tortures innocent people...")

there are also the small No's

("...those daily ones like saying no to seductive ads, no to incessant electronic intrusions, no to self-indulgences that erode our sense of purpose. And no even to the temptation to do more 'good' by overextending ourselves.")

Ouch - that last one really got me. Saying No to good things is the hardest for me - one more patient visit, one more church committee, one more phone call. I think that in these "good things" I am also called to be a faithful steward of my SELF. To what am I faithful to this day?

Where is the YES that I need to say in this moment and what kind of NOs are needed to protect that commitment? It's helpful for me to reframe NO in this way, that it's okay to say No when it's protecting a Yes.

Barbara Brown Taylor's "Getting to No" article in Christian Century grounds my real fear - that saying "no" to someone makes me feel like I've just said that word with an exclamation and angry tone behind it. I really don't want to say it that way! I read recently that St. Vincent de Paul was able to say "no" and people felt as blessed as if he had said "yes." Well, there's a saint for you. So forgive me, friends, as I practice saying no when it means I'm protecting a commitment to which I have given thoughtful discernment and it comes out all caps with some nasty emoticon attached. I'm learning!

BBT writes, "...Learning to say no is how we clear space for a few carefully planted yeses to grow. Saying no to lesser gods is part of saying yes to God. Saying no to one neighbor, at least until the next dance, is part of saying yes to another. Getting to yes includes getting to no. While saying yes may always be more satisfying than saying no, both are sacred words in the mouths of those who want to get to God...."

I'm reminded this week on vacation about saying No to many things so that I can say Yes to many others. This is hard work. Time to get out on the beach.

God spoke to Israel in a vision that night: "Jacob! Jacob!" "Yes?" he said. "I'm listening." Genesis 46:2

To what are you saying No in this moment?


  1. Good post! Good reminders. Good to hear your voice - even in writing.

  2. "it's okay to say No when it's protecting a Yes"

    Wise, wonderful words! Thank you!