On Saying No

I am, I believe, leaving behind a season of busy. It’s been a season of rushing, of making it through the work day, of making it through a busy evening, of sleeping for a couple of hours, of starting the process all over again. Day after day after day. It’s been a season of investing in relationships, new and old. It’s been a season of boarding airplanes, experiencing new cultures, making new memories. It’s been a season of joy and a season of challenge. It’s been a season of yes.

And now it is time for a season of no.

In the last couple of weeks as the final commitments of this past year have finished, I have found the state of my soul bruised and blistered and worn, showing the wounds of a battle well fought. It’s been alarming but not in the immediate action sort of way, because if my soul is battered, my mind is in a fog. And I’ve found myself pushing back the cobwebs of a life that was frantically lived day to day.

Just make it to tomorrow. Just make it to tomorrow. Just make it to tomorrow. And some days the mantra was just make it to tonight, the afternoon, the next hour.

It’s been a whirlwind of crazy without a Sabbath, a disaster I was keenly aware of at the time yet felt trapped to do anything about. And as I rushed and hustled and hurried, I became reacquainted with a glaring, ugly idol that took over my heart and my mind and my soul. It was at the very center of my schedule—busy.

We love that word. Americans love to worship this word, this lifestyle. Christians especially tend to equate busyness with godliness, especially if they are busy with Christian things.

But then somewhere in the midst of the crazy, if we are brave enough to look at the state of our souls, we may just find a self that is battered and worn and hanging on by a thread. We may find exhaustion and numbness. At least that’s what I found. I found a heart that was investing in everything and nothing all at once. I found a soul that longed to rest. I found a mind that couldn’t focus on what was right in front of it. I found exhaustion in the worst kinds of ways.

And that still small voice, the one that calls me back to the core of who I am and what I believe whispered, “It’s time to say no.” The Father so graciously wrapped me in his arms and told me to rest. He told me that his burden was light, that I could find rest in him, and I wept with relief and with gratitude and with joy. And then I practiced saying that simple word—no.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself eating breakfast with a high school student I mentor. It was an early-morning start to a day that would stretch well into the evening, but it was the only time that worked in our schedules. We sat at our tall table, sipping coffee and munching on pastries, and then she asked me if I was going as a leader to my church’s summer camp.

In that moment, my heart sank to my toes, but that still, small voice gave me grace.

It’s time to say no.

It’s not a no simply to say no. It’s a well-thought-out no. It’s the kind of no that makes way for a greater yes. It’s a no to rushing and a yes to connecting. It’s a no to proving and a yes to being. It’s a no to investing in all things and a yes to investing in a few. It’s a no to constantly giving my best self to strangers and a yes to giving the whole of who I am to the ones I love dearly.

And so as this student asked this question, I knew my answer would disappoint her. I knew that I would be saying no to a very good thing. In that moment, I wondered if I could get away with telling a half-truth, finding an excuse that might seem more “legitimate.” And in that moment, the ugly idol of busy began to knock at the door of my heart.

And so I breathed deeply and said no. I told her that I was trying to say no more often, that the pace of my life and the busyness I had allowed to take over had left me feeling hallow and shallow and awful. I explained to her that I was going to say no to whatever I could this summer so that I could say yes to other things that were just as important to me. I shared with her that those closest to me—my family and my dearest friends—had gotten the leftovers of Kate for months on end. I told her that I was drawing a line in the sand and because of that, I wasn’t going to camp.

It’s unheard of—saying no—especially in the Christian world. We rush and hustle and prove ourselves by what we are “investing” in. But sooner or later, we find ourselves scrapping the bottom of our soul, our spirit, our joy. “No” becomes harder and harder to say as we bury deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast.

There are seasons of yes, most certainly, and there are seasons of no. And I’m learning to be less afraid of both because they walk hand in hand. There is simply a tension between the two to be managed during each season of life, and this truth is freeing and frightening. Sometimes it leaves me feeling insecure and sometimes empowered. I am sometimes anxious that I’m missing out by saying no, and other times, when I finally have the chance to rest and be, I find myself grateful and healthy and whole.

And I’m learning that this is a daily choice. It’s a mindset decision. So each morning, I try to leave behind the mindset of rushing and proving and hustling. Each morning, I try as hard as I can to rest and trust and seek out the very best thing.

And I try so very hard to say that simple word—no.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol Metzler says:

    Once again you nailed it Katherine!!!! Even your 74 year old grandma learns from your wisdom. Thank you God bless you and keep writing. That’s one thing you don’t want to say “no” to:)

  2. Patty says:

    Your Grandpa would be so proud of you like we are.Not because you’re his granddaughter,but because you are following God. In Ecclesiastes there is a season for everything. Thank you for sharing.May God help you through your seasons.

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