even GOD rested.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:31-2:3 (emphasis added)
A client recommended a book to me on Tuesday and I found it at Goodwill on Wednesday for $1.99. I wasn’t really looking for it, the title just jumped out at me and said, “HEY! I’m the book Judy told you about!” God is so cool that way. The book is titled Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I haven’t really dived in yet, but my initial pre-read produced some food for thought. The book talks about setting boundaries and not allowing others to cross them. We allow other people to control our life – or just our time – because we don’t say “no” either to ourselves or out loud, to them.
I used to have this problem. Until very recently, in fact. For years, nearly every Christmas, I was sick. Sometimes a little sick, more often than not, VERY sick. I took on too many responsibilites, self-created even more responsibilites, slept way too little, ate sparingly (but very BADLY), abandoned exercise, and stressed out so completely that my immune system left skid marks and my body revolted. A few years ago, both my husband and I were both sick. We decided then: NO MORE.
I’m learning to say “no.” (Notice I didn’t say “I’ve learned.”)
First, I read a book (big surprise), Guilt-Free Living by Robert Jeffress. I learned (or was reminded) that even GOD RESTED!
Read the verse above again. Notice the words “completed” and “finished” and “rested.” Here’s what Jeffress had to say about it:
God was able to complete the grandest project imaginable. And once he finished that project, he rested from the act of creation. And he experienced satisfaction from his work.
In those six days, did God create everything that he could have created? I think not. There is no end to the galaxies, the planets, the animals, the plants and even the types of humans God could have created (why limit it to two?) Yet, after six days, God said, “Enough is enough! What I have done is great!”
And then again, talking about Jesus:
Throughout the thirty-three years of life on this planet, Jesus had one goal: to accomplish the work God had for him to complete. That singular, driving purpose is seen in Jesus words in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” When one thinks of all the needs Jesus must have seen around him – the disease, the heartaches, the broken relationships, the myriad of unsaved lives – coupled with the limited time he knew he had on earth we can only imagine the urgency Jesus could have felt.
And yet, as you examine Jesus’ life and ministry, you notice that he was never in a hurry. He walked everywhere he went. His schedule was never too busy to enjoy some lighthearted moments with his disciples, some playful times with children, or even a good party like the wedding at Cana. Jesus did not heal every sick person, raise every dead person, or even convert every sinner. Yet, when he hung on the cross he was able to say, “It is finished.”
Okay then. If the work of the Almighty God was followed by rest, who am I to think my work is so important? There is NOTHING wrong with going to bed the same day you wake up – instead of getting up the same day you go to bed! What was I thinking?
So, I’m learning to say no. But there’s a trick to it. Don’t explain why. If you are asked to do something, and you say no and give a reason, the person asking you will try to solve your problem. They will advise you, offer to do something, whatever they can – to remove the “obstacle” from your life – thus allowing you to say “Yes.” Don’t explain why.
I do apologize when I say “no.” I actually am sorry I can’t help. But not sorry enough to say yes to something that will sabotage my (and my family’s) daily life.
One of the big problems I’ve discovered is that people have expectations of me (you) based on their knowledge of my (your) gifts and abilities and they do not approve when I (you), don’t “use those gifts to glorify God.” When they verbalize this disapproval (wrapped in outward disbelief), the idea is that embarrassment and guilt will lead to a “yes.” No more. I used to do that. I’ve left a church because of that.
I’m a vocalist and I’ve sung in the choir for years. Over time, I also developed an interest in sign language. I combined the two interests and learned to interpret the music during the worship services at my church. The choir members were not happy. I was no longer singing in the choir. I was standing down in front of the first pew, signing the music instead. At first the comments were, “We sure miss you in choir.” At the end, I was interpreting music during worship on “Join the Choir” Sunday. During the service, each choir member was supposed to go down into the congregation and bring someone back up to the choir loft for the rest of the service. Two people came to get me. I was the assigned interpreter for music that day and the choir members wanted me to abandon that responsibility because they had decided my gifts were better used in the choir. I began looking for a new church soon after that day. I needed a church where my service could expand and not be limited to areas that others expected.
Recently, after singing a solo in my current church I was encouraged to join the choir by a few different members. When responding to the first person, I forgot my rule. I started to explain. I was quickly reminded when the person asking began offering suggestions as to how I might overcome the “obstacles.” So this is my answer. “I’ve sung in choir before, and I’m sure I will again, but now isn’t the right time for me. I’m sorry.” I won’t explain about my husband’s travel, the overlap of rehearsal and my daughter’s bedtime, my preference to worship with my family in the congregation on Sunday or any of the other reasons which lead me to say “no” to choir at this time in my life. I don’t see them as obstacles. They are priorities.
And that is the key. Priorities. Priorities help you determine which requests get a “yes” and which ones get a “no.” We are so busy that we often lose sight of our priorities – if we’ve even taken the time to think them through in the first place. We are so busy we start going through the motions, doing things we’ve said we would do, without even realizing some of these things are actually counter-productive to our priorities.
Can’t quit cold turkey? Make a list of your priorities today. Say no (and I’m sorry) to everything that doesn’t support those priorities. Give someone else an opportunity to serve. They may have been waiting for you to stop hogging all the work.
Need an extreme make over? Don’t take on any responsibilities which will require additional time and effort from you in the month of November and December. It will be the most amazing holiday season you’ve had in years.
Julie Stiles Mills