Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Say "NO!"

Just today, I was asked to be part of a planning committee for an upcoming event at church. I was flattered. I was excited. I was tempted to say yes.

I said no. And I did not apologize for it.

I’m already heavily involved with our ladies’ ministry team at church, and between that and my upcoming mission trip, I decided that those two ministries would be enough to keep me occupied this year, so I’m limiting my involvement in other ministry areas.

Saying no to ministry opportunities is not easily done, particularly for us women. It is one thing to say no to things that we know are wrong. It is harder, however, to say no to those things that are good, but perhaps not what God wants us to be doing right now. And too often we take on too much responsibility of all these good things that we are too worn out and stretched to do those things that are best, those things that God really wants us to focus our time and talents on.

Of course, this is not a new problem. Way back in the New Testament, Martha earned her reputation as a hard-working, overloaded woman who was too busy getting supper ready to take time to spend at Jesus’ feet.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

I have a feeling that Martha is far from being the only New Testament woman who tried to do too much. That tendency probably goes all the way back to Eve. And it can be a trap for men as well, although I think that women tend to fall prey to it more often. Martha let her busyness distract her from resting in the company of her Lord, and, sadly, that temptation continues to our generation today.

Saying no, especially to the good things, can be hard to do for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes we say yes out of a sense of obligation or guilt. Sometimes it's because we reason that if we don't do it, no one else will. Sometimes it's because it's an ego boost to feel needed. Sometimes it's because we worry that the person asking us to do whatever will think poorly of us or not like us anymore if we say no.

Saying no does not come naturally to me. But I'm learning to exercise that option more often. The fewer distractions (even good ones) that I have, the better I'm able to concentrate on those ministries and activities that are best. What's best for me may not be what's best for you, and vice versa. We have to trust God to give us the wisdom to choose what is best for each of us,a nd to act accordingly. Saying no, I'm learning, gets easier the more often you say it.


Tara said...

That is such a great post that is speaking to me at this moment! When you have children, you are expected to do even more at church (which I understand), but still maintain the other things you were doing as well. You begin to feel overwhelmed and the quality of participation is not what you want. However, others don't realize this and make us feel guilty for saying no. (Why are women we so hard on each other???)

We all need to realize we have certain talents given to us by God. We should try to cultivate those talents instead of spreading ourselves thin. Thanks for the thoughts!

Snapshot said...

No is a difficult word when connected to ministry. It's hard to know where to draw the line.

I've even had to say no to some bible classes because it's too much. It took me 42 years to learn that just because it's a good work doesn't mean God intends for me to be a part of it. He leads me, but not to ALL activities or even ALL the good works that are out there.

I've tried to listen to His voice more carefully about my specific talents in the past few years. It was uncomfortable for me to explain to others why I had to start saying no. Some folks appreciate my desire to become more focused while I know there are some (cause they have told me) that feel I have shunned the work "of the church". I'm so sorry they feel that way, but I have to go where God leads, not where my friends lead, even if where my friends are is a good place for them.