“I don’t know what is wrong with me!” I was laughing, and my eyes were rolling and I was shaking my head. “I think I’ve learned to say no, and then…” I pause, searching for the words that fit – the words that communicate what I mean. “And then I discover that I haven’t learned much about it after all.”
The funny (or not-so-funny) part of it all, is that I’ve said those above words more times than once to more than one person. Sigh. Why am I so determined to race through every day, be engaged in a little bit of everything, and have a perpetual to-do-list six feet long? Aren’t to-do lists supposed to eventually go away?
Leslie Ludy, in the Lost Art of True Beauty, says this: “Even if you don’t have a spouse and family to focus on, there are plenty of sacred dimensions to life worth cherishing and protecting. Your intimate, daily romance with Jesus Christ. Your study of His Word and going deeper in your Christian life. Your relationships with family members and close friends. Your ability to cultivate the special gifts God has given you in order to more effectively serve His Kingdom. These are all scared things worthy of your focus and protection.”
Some to-do lists are perpetual and never go away. Washing dishes, doing laundry, dusting the bookshelves, buying groceries = setting up the pins and knocking them down…again and again and again. There are some lists in life that we just can’t escape. As my mom always said: “That’s life.”
There are seasons of life, too, where the six-foot to-do list gets rewritten six times. Some seasons of life will just be more busy – no matter who you are, where you live, or what you do. I echo my mom – “That’s life.”
But there is a mode that isn’t healthy; a tendency that does destroy. The inability to say no. The lack of personal boundaries and limitations. The air of the “I-can-do-anything-person” who gets involved in anything…and everything…and never excels in any one thing.
More often than not, recently, I’ve found myself there. Planning a baby shower, coordinating lodging for a wedding, hosting a houseful of people, coordinating a rummage sale fundraiser, and helping with flowers for a wedding + the normal responsibilities of my life as a wife, homemaker and greenhouse manager. Amazing? I think not.
While I accomplished the aforementioned tasks, other areas in my life suffered. When you say yes, you also say no. When something comes into your life, something inevitably goes. It’s the nature of our existence.
Thomas Kinkade said this: “But what an improvement when we finally begin to feel at home with a simpler way of life. What a surge of energy when we realize that saying no is really a way of saying yes to all we really care about…When I learn to say a deep, passionate yes to the things that really matter – and no to whatever gets in the way of that yes – then the peace begins to settle onto my life like golden sunlight sifting to a forest floor. And that, I find, is a peace worth fighting for.”
I’m coming home. I’m sifting through all the things that claim my attention, that pester for more of my energy and passion, that fill my time – and I’m sorting through the stacks like clothes and trinkets at a rummage sale. There’s a junk pile, a treasure pile and a thrift store pile. I’m saying no, because saying no means yes to what is truly vital, essential, important, and worthy.
My identity feels a little shaken-up. I admit the obvious. I’ve been doing, going, doing, and going because I’ve believed the lie that if I do and go, I will somehow be more valuable. Satan has won long enough. It’s time to live the abundantly free life that is bestowed upon me through Jesus Christ.
I’m saying yes and no – at the same time.