November 7, 2011

Saying No

It seems like my husband and I talk about the calendar more than anything else these days. Out of necessity, we live a very structured, scheduled life. If we didn't, the barrage of ministry opportunities would swallow us whole and destroy our spiritual health and family vitality. But to keep that structure and maintain our priorities, we have to say no. A lot.

Trouble is, I have a hard time saying no. And as our church has grown and our relationships have deepened, I have to say no more and more, but I'm finding it harder and harder. I've noticed, too, that my inability to say no when I need to has corresponded equally with a rise in exhaustion, depletion, bitterness, and anxiety. 

When I allow ministry opportunities to encroach past their appropriate boundaries and my emotional well-being takes a nose-dive, I always point the blame away from myself: to ministry, to the church, to people I assume hold expectations over me, to my husband, even to God.

But the blame is solely on me. Nobody else gets me into an overwhelming tangle of priorities.

I know how it happens: When I face a scheduling decision or am presented with a need, I pray about it. But I do not often wait and listen for direction from God before taking action. 

I know why it happens: I often make decisions based upon what other people want me to do or what I think they would want me to do. I feel some strange compulsion to be the ideal pastor's wife. In the end, I am worshipping myself rather than worshipping God.

How many of my decisions are because I fear people and how many are because I fear God? If they are made to please other people, my schedule fills up and my spiritual vitality goes down. However, when I wait and listen for God's direction, He leads me perfectly in ways that result in freedom, joy, and rest.

This is where I am these days, learning to wait and listen.
"Never, never, NEVER trust your own judgment in anything.  When common sense says that a course is right, lift your heart to God, for the path of faith and the path of blessing may be in a direction completely opposite to that which you call common sense.  When voices tell you that action is urgent, that something must be done immediately, refer everything to the tribunal of heaven.  Then, if you are still in doubt, dare to stand still.  If you are called on to act and you have no time to pray, don’t act.  If you are called on to move in a certain direction and cannot wait until you have peace with God about it, don’t move.  Be strong enough and brave enough to dare to stand and wait on God, for none of them that wait on him shall ever be ashamed.  That is the only way to outmatch the devil.”--Alan Redpath