punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How Often Do We Say No?


At times, observing two-year-old behavior grants the most profound insights into humanity in general, doesn't it?

My son who is two has just now fixated on every toddler's favorite word.  Parents, let’s say it in unison: “no.”  It’s a good thing the word ‘no’ doesn’t have a Facebook page, because with how technologically savvy little kids are, it would probably have a million ‘likes’ or more by now.

And so everyday, I am met with a ringing chorus of  “no” to any and all requests.  “Come here!” No!  “Say sorry!” No!  “Eat a cookie!” No! (really?). Thus, my task of transforming my little guy back into a lovely boy again over the course of the next year lies before me.

Interestingly, since I’ve started paying more attention to his shenanigans, I've become more observant of grown ups.  Happily, I’ve found is that adults hardly ever say the big n-o.  It seems that our parents did a good job rooting it out of us when we were two!

Here’s the thing though,  we still turn each other down frequently.  However, instead of just refusing outright like a toddler would, we utter non-committal phrases such as, “I’ll get back to you on that,”  “Maybe next time,” or “Maybe when I’m not so busy.” 

In many ways it’s not surprising that we do this.  As a word, “no” has a feeling of definiteness and finality to it and, for whatever reason, subconscious residual toddler trauma maybe, that makes us uncomfortable. Try to remember the last time you turned someone down.  Most likely, you didn’t say flat out ‘no.’  That would sound strange. 
“Hi! Do you want to get together for a play date?”
“Um…no.”
It just doesn’t happen.  More than likely, you gave a reason, prefaced by a sentiment of regret.  “Oh, I wish I could, but, you know, (insert reason here).”   

Coordinating a play date is a tame example.  What about those times someone asked you to do something in which there was really nothing in it for you (watch the kids, cook a meal, give up a weekend for an event).  Chances are you had the same reaction – you humbly declined and you told them why.

And it was probably for a good reason, right?

Now, maybe you don’t do this, but I do, and I've caught myself doing it with God also. I give my watered down negative response to Him and then I give my wonderful reasons why not. 

The thing about reasons, is that there are always going to be good, no, great reasons for saying no to God (and to each other, for that matter).

In fact, I’ve never given God or another person a bad reason for being a lame friend. My degree in English Literature assures that my reasons are fantastic and well worded! 

I mean, come on, sometimes it’s really just not good timing and I’m busy.  Or my family is in the midst of a transition or on vacation.  Or maybe what God is asking of me is really just not ‘my thing,’ or maybe I’m under the weather, or I’ve had a rough day, year or life. Maybe I’m too hungry or tired, or to preoccupied with getting ready for the holidays or with a project or with schooling my kids.  Or perhaps I’m just not sure if I’m the right person for the job. Or maybe I’ve already done a lot of good in my life and it’s time to give someone else a turn, or maybe I’ve been neglecting my to-do list or my bucket list and want to accomplish a few things first.  Or maybe my spouse won’t support me, or people will judge me or maybe God’s request falls outside of my comfortable cultural sphere. In retrospect, all of reasons I’ve ever given God for why I'm unable to comply with His will have been good, solid reasons.

And yet, it all amounts to a big, fat ‘no.’

When was the last time we told someone or God,  “I want to do this because I simply appreciate the value of living in imitation of Christ!”?  Um, never. 

The truth is, as good as our reasons are for turning down an opportunity to be charitable, I’m willing to bet that they are never going to be as good the Good we forgoing by not saying yes.  And that Good is capitalized because it is God, it is the chance to grow in His friendship that we are letting go of when we place our lazy human will above His.

And then we're the first ones to wonder why no one does anything extraordinary anymore, aren't we?  If only someone would say yes to God. Hm...if only we set our hearts on being that person.
Of the two servants Jesus spoke of in the Gospel who were commissioned with a task, one refused at first and the other accepted.  But the one who accepted didn’t follow through, while the servant who said no, thought better of it and did it anyway.  Which one will we be?

Even better, though, is the third option and that is to be like Christ himself; to say yes and to follow through with trying our best to do it.  Try it sometime.  Take note: how many times do you say no…without saying no, outright, really?    And more importantly, how often do you actually and genuinely say yes?

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