For years I asked myself why it was so hard to say no when my dad was molesting me. It is such a simple two letter word yet I could not form it in my mouth or shout it out at him. ‘No’ might have prevented the whole thing, ‘no’ may have scared him away, and ‘no’ might have saved me from carrying that awful memory all of my teenage and adult life. ‘No’ has so much power behind it yet no is the one word that has taken me years to learn to say.
The question plagued me all through my adult years as I found myself in all sorts of situations where ‘no’ was the best answer and I ended up saying yes or simply not saying anything at all. Why? What caused me to be so weak and frail? I knew that my inability to say no would cause me more pain and heartache.
My conclusion is that I feared saying no. I feared not being liked. I feared not being good enough. I feared rejection. I feared what people would think of me. Fear left me powerless to say the one word that would save me from even more hurt. How bizarre is that!
The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear and that fear involves torment[i]. Torment was most certainly a reality for me on most days and as that torment grew, so did the wall around my heart. Even though the wall grew stronger my ability to say no didn’t change. I grew less fearful as God patiently and tenderly poured His perfect love into me, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Slowly I began to understand His love and acceptance. In time I started to value His opinion above people’s opinion. Living to impress God and not other people gave me a new found freedom that I had never known. It didn’t come quickly though, it took years of hard work and a firm decision not to care about what people thought of me.
With this freedom came an ability to say no. There is most definitely a connection between self esteem and the ability to say no. Either you are the sort of person that says no to everything by default or yes to everything. Neither is healthy or good. The ability to make a wise decision and execute your decision with a firm yes or no is one of the signs of freedom.
Types of ‘Nos’
There is the obvious ‘no’ that I should have learned such as ‘no I will not have sex with you’ and ‘no you cannot touch me there’. No matter how much I really didn’t want boys to treat me the way they did, I always felt that they would reject me if I didn’t let them have their way.
Now that I am a mother, I try and find ways to make my children feel totally comfortable with saying no so that they can avoid getting themselves into this sort of situation. Most importantly, I try to help them develop their relationship with God so that they know that He is the only one that they need to please in this life – EVER. My husband is more pleased because I live by this rule, my children are more pleased and I am more pleased. Pleasing God overflows into every area of our lives.
The less subtle no is the ‘no’ to busyness. It seems harmless and a lot less dramatic than sexual abuse, but it is not as harmless as you may think. Many women can’t say no to church duties for example. It is a different scenario but the same root – FEAR.
Fear of not being accepted by the pastor or church leaders, fear of not looking as spiritual as other team members, fear, fear, fear! Women in church are too busy, completely overloaded with ‘works’ simply because they fear the consequences of saying no. Yet when Mary said no to the busyness just to sit at Jesus’ feet Jesus said[ii]:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary unashamedly said ‘no’ to the work and simply sat at Jesus’ feet! She was free to say no because she knew what was important at that moment. How many of us are scurrying around like busy bees trying to serve our best to Jesus. Our heart is to please Him, our desire is to serve Him. All good intentions with a seemingly pure heart, but is it really? Are we perhaps so busy trying to earn His favour that we are forgetting that it can’t be earned? We already have it – in full measure. He already loves us and accepts us the maximum that is possible. If we truly understood this I think we would do a lot less and sit at His feet a lot more.
Women of God, be free to say no to Church busyness when you need to, I am sure Jesus would say the same to you as He said to Mary,
“You have chosen that good part and it will not be taken away from you.”
I am a church leader; together my husband and I pastor our church. I nearly killed myself in the first year of ministry. No not suicide, I had already overcome that, you can read about my victory in my first book, Hope’s Journey. The death I am referring to here is exhaustion. Let me list a few of the things I did on a weekly basis.
· Mothered four gorgeous children
· Loved one awesome husband
· Cleaned a four bedroom home
· All the stuff that go with the above
· Edited & uploaded the church podcast
· Updated the church blog with upcoming events for the week
· Church bookkeeping
· Church bill payments
· Communications with venues & suppliers
· Mothers group
· Care for the women in our church
· Lead worship
· Write songs
· Write books
· Preach occasionally
· Team training documentation & presentation
· Church administration
· Invoice Eric’s guitar students
· Eric’s bookkeeping
· Assist a close friend in managing his business
· Close friends bookkeeping
· Manage Church website including hard coding updates, etc
· Manage church reporting & spreadsheets
· Build a community website
· Mentor D7 Community trainee
· Host Friday night social event
· Cook roast dinner on Sundays for 10-20 people
· Build a communications system in PHP for church communications
· Write a personal blog
· Crisis counselling
I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. These were some of my weekly responsibilities. Are you impressed? Do you see the many skills I have? Do you like me even more now? Do you think God is impressed? Do you think He likes me even more now? No, the answer is a big, fat NO!
All year while I was being busy, God was sat huddled in a corner to keep out of my way as I busily swished passed Him. Yes, I wrote some beautiful worship songs, which He gave me in the few brief times of worship I had. But was it worship or was it a time of getting a new song from God? Don’t be impressed by my list or yours for that matter.
This year I have given up 90% of that list. I have said no to so many things and I am so free. I am in transition from being a Martha to becoming a Mary, and I love it. I don’t care what people think, I only care what God thinks. And do you know what? In all of that busyness in the first year of church life, the church didn’t grow numerically. Was it worth it? Yes, lives were changed, but I honestly believe that if I did absolutely none of my church duties on that list, nothing would have changed. Church would have continued as GOD planned. He did some deep work in our lives, in the team, and in the few people in our congregation.
D7 Church is living proof that unless the Lord builds the church, the labourers labour in vain[iii]. I am living proof that I can say no and it’s OK. What do you need to say no to today? I dare you, give it a try, you will be pleasantly surprised J
Many times I would find myself lost in worship in my bedroom. Worship is a special time where I talk to God, sing to Him, cry, laugh and simply be with Him. Since I have started writing songs I have found that most of my songs come to me during that special time. I treasure each and every song as they have a special place in my heart. I realised that I have always ‘got’ new songs in His presence, even before I ‘officially’ wrote songs. I would sing in tongues and many times sing a new song in English. At the time I didn’t realise that these were actual songs that could be sung in church worship. Of course, now that I write songs for church worship, I am aware of this and usually write the songs down as I get them so that I can see if the band wants to use them.
A pattern developed where I would keep a note book handy during my personal time or worship to record songs and one day I felt bad. I felt like I wasn’t worshiping God anymore but I was merely going to Him to get songs. Although I loved that natural flow of songs, something about it didn’t feel right. This is when I decided to say ‘no’ to writing down every single song. From time to time, as I started singing, I said,
“God, this song is just for You. I sacrifice it and won’t write it down; it is for Your pleasure only.”
At times I would think, ooh that was such a good song, surely I should write it down? But no, if it was the best song ever then even better, God should get the best sacrifices not the scraps that won’t work in church.
This is just something personal between God and I, it’s not to say that this sort of saying ‘no’ is for everyone, but it is what keeps my time with God special so that it’s not all about getting songs. This kind of saying no keeps me focused on why I am in His presence in the first place. I come to worship Him because I love to be with Him. That is it. Full stop! Some beautiful songs have drifted up to heaven, songs that will never be heard again, but I am sure that those ones are extra special to God :)