I am beginning to emerge from a cave of my own making after many months of the isolation that comes from being too busy, taking on too much, and imagining that my calendar could hold up under the burdens I have forced it to carry. In fact, in the past two months, my calendar had collapsed completely, and I am just now moving aside the pieces of it in order to see the light of day. It feels so good to look around and see what I have been missing while I reaped the consequences of overwork and an impossible vortex of colliding events in my personal life.
It’s not that I haven’t known this was coming. I did. I knew fairly shortly after one crucial decision, one casual and unconsidered commitment that proved to be one “yes” too far in my already overburdened life. The old saying, “Sin in haste, repent at leisure,” has been running around in my head for almost a year now. And I have repented. Daily. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what I got myself into and how exactly it happened. And I actually think I’ve figured it out.
I know that I am not alone in my difficulty with saying no. There are a lot of people who suffer from the same ailment. I know this because so many of the books in the self-help aisle are about saying no, setting healthy boundaries, better self-care, and so on. But I don’t think that it’s as simple as just saying no. I think we (me included) need to spend a lot more time thinking about what it is that we’re too often saying yes to!
Case in point, when I said yes to this particular commitment, I realize now that I was saying yes to a paycheck, yes to recognition, yes to being needed, and mostly, yes to ego. I completely failed to check in with God before I made this decision. I did check in with my husband, and since he kind of likes it when I bring home a paycheck on occasion, he jumped on board without too much persuasion. But I didn’t check in with God, and I certainly didn’t check in with myself. If I had, I would have noticed that I wasn’t particularly excited or intrigued by this “opportunity.” It wasn’t something I had a passion for, and it wasn’t a role that was connected with what I see as my true vocation. So I said yes for all the wrong reasons.
I wonder if most of us do this from time to time or even frequently. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that there are a lot of reasons for saying yes that have nothing to do with God. My list is long, and I bet my readers can come up with a similar list fairly quickly. We say yes to money, acceptance, indispensability, recognition, acclaim, being needed, being in control, and having someone be indebted to us. I could go on. The reasons are myriad and vary with the individual. I know the ones that are most tempting to me, and I now realize that I have to stay vigilant if I don’t want a repeat of this pattern in my life. I know that I have to do something differently if I want my life to BE different! I know that I actually have to take the time to discern whether a particular request or opportunity is something that God is calling me to. That means finding a way to get some space between the invitation and my answer.
For me, I have discovered that an automatic yes is out of the question. I always need to tell the other person that I will have to think and pray about it first. Pray first. That has become my new mantra. And I think it will be one that sticks with me for a long, long time. And what will I pray? I can think of a lot of things—like is this where God is leading, is this something I’m passionate about, is this congruent with what I see as my calling, how will this affect me, my family, and my spiritual life—but they all really boil down to one thing that is at the heart of the matter. If I say yes, will I be saying yes to self or yes to God? I pray that this simple formula might serve as a guideline for you as well. And if we are able to say yes to God, let it be a resounding YES!