No. It's a tiny little word yielding a tremendous amount of power. It can be frustrating to hear and frightening to say. It can be an ending or a beginning. It is mostly perceived as negative, but can be the gateway to many positive things.
I know you are thinking that this post will be about my two year old's use of the word, but it's not. It's really not even about the word -- just the meaning behind it.
Let's rewind many years to session of spiritual direction. I was working in ministry. I was stretched thinner than I had ever been and was seriously suffering from the 'Need to Please Disease." All the things I was involved in at the time were wonderful ways of giving to others....but I was miserable. I just couldn't figure out a fix. I felt obligated, required and called to 'do good' (and probably to 'look good' by 'doing good.')
Well, my spiritual director questioned my need to say 'yes' to most everything that was asked of me. I was a little confused, because I really believed I was doing the right thing and that I was making God very proud. "No." seemed so harsh and negative and shameful to me. I will never forget her words to me...
"Ah, Maria. It is "no's" that give much more meaning and power to each of your "yeses."
Even though I've come such a long way since that dismal time in my life, I continually have to be reminded about that truthful nugget of wisdom - especially now that I must be a model for my daughter.
Lately, I've had to use my no's quite a lot. I expected to be filled with guilt and maybe even a touch of shame. I've been surprised to have found quite the opposite. I am filled with relief and peace.
One example was a recent choice to participate in a women's study circle - one of the few things I've done for myself lately. It got so stressful and frustrating with my husband's increased work schedule, other unexpected issues coming up and figuring out how to parent my challenging two year old. I backed out. "No." I had to give myself permission to quit something I'd started. I looked at all the busy moms of many kids who were able to keep that commitment - and sighed. Then I took a deep breath and got over myself and then found peace. There will be time for that in another chapter of my life.
Another 'no' was to a ministry - serving on the Board of Director's of the Pro-Life Agency largely responsible for our adoption. It started out a do-able commitment, which snowballed into a consuming effort. There was major guilt involved in this one. ("But you're helping to save babies!" someone told me. Ugh.) I mulled over this one for a while, prayed about it and finally realized that there was one baby that I was given TREMENDOUS responsibility for....MINE! I chose to stay home so I can be here when she needed me, when she was sick, when she was going through rough stages, so I can enjoy every bit of her. It became clear to me that my 'no' was a YES in disguise. It was near impossible to feel guilty about saying yes to my family.
As we meander our way through this season of Advent, we remember another woman who's 'no' gave meaning to her ultimate YES. The 'no' was to her own will....her own plans.....her own dreams that she had for her life. That YES became our Savior.
My prayer is that we can all still ourselves enough to know what we are called to say no and yes to. Happy Advent.