On saying “no”

The phone rang during the bustle of the dinner hour. The case manager on the other end was requesting emergency respite care for a 3 year old and 4 year old. They needed two nights and two days.

I said no.

And felt very guilty.

It is scrawled across the black board in my kitchen, “Live generously and graciously.” How was I being generous or gracious to turn down this need? Wasn’t this something that I “should” do? What kind of horrible person was I to turn away this need?

But here is the thing – there are always needs. And it is impossible to meet every need. Every single minute of every single day we are surrounded by needs that are important and critical. It is the nature of a sinful world. I can drive myself crazy thinking of all the needs in my town, in this country, around the world. I can work myself into a tizzy thinking that we need to sell all our possessions, adopt a hundred orphans, never buy anything new in a store again, move to a different country. None of those things are wrong, but none of those things are what God is calling us to do right now. In this age of internet and blogs I can constantly be comparing myself to others who are living more “radically” and find myself falling short and feeling guilty when I say “no” to something.

So, not to justify myself in a self-serving way, but here is what my no is making possible:

– Time and energy to work at the church office. Sure I get paid, but it is part of my day and part of how I serve because the work always bleeds over into my personal life and I usually put in more time than I get officially paid for.

– Time and energy to serve in the little pre-K class where every week I show the love of Jesus to a gaggle of little ones.

– Time and energy to go to a VBS planning meeting and start the preparations for our church’s summer VBS program.

– Time and energy to help out at the city Easter Egg Hunt, helping with the logistics as our church tries to be present and loving in our community.

– Time and energy to continue our home schooling, an activity that is more than just educational but relational too.

– Time and energy to spend with my husband, encouraging him. His days are exhausting as a teacher of middle schoolers who have challenging behaviors.

– Not to mention time and energy to remain loving, generous and gracious as the wife and mother I am currently called to be.

Could I have time and energy to do all those things if a 3 and 4 year old were at our house for the next couple of days? Sure I could. I believe that God equips us to do the things He calls us to, and sometimes those things are challenging. But I also know that He made me, and I am learning my limits. And the needs of a 3 and 4 year old in the next few days would be beyond my limits.

So this time I said no. While I struggled with the guilt I reminded myself that God loves me, no matter what. He is not disappointed in me for saying no. He has given me other things to do in these next few days. Ultimately, His love for me is not dependent on what I do, or don’t do. While I thought these things joy returned. I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t have anything to fear. I can serve with joy. I can say no without guilt.

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