By definition, the word “no” has a negative connotation. It conveys restriction, refusal, and denial. It’s a flashing red light blinking a warning to stop. It’s a shut door. The end of a discussion. A command to pause.
I grew up in the eighties when war was declared on drugs, and the best-known weapon was the three-word slogan, “Just say no.” I heard it from Nancy Reagan. It was espoused on popular sitcoms like Punky Brewster and Diff’rent Strokes. I read it on bumper stickers and posters. Just. Say. No.
Easy peasy. No was encouraged. It was advocated. It was celebrated. Like some algebraic equation, a negative turned into a positive. But like all ad campaigns, it ran its course. There was a new decade, new millennium, new drugs, and of course, new wars. “No” is once again true to its definition. It’s for the slacker. The one who refuses to lean in. The people who have limited constructs and little ambition.
Yes has become the world’s drug of choice. We are encouraged to go all in, have it all, and do it all. All for what? At what price? This 21st-century spin is blurring priorities. Everything has become important. Everything has to be done. It’s encompassing, egocentric, and exhausting.
Maybe the battle should have never been between yes and no. Perhaps, all along, it should have only been know. Know who should command your heart. Know what you stand for. Know when to push through and when to pull away. Know where you want to go. Know why what you do matters. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11). God knows his plan for us. He knows when we should answer yes or no. He knows we would know too, if we paused long enough to listen to our hearts. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2).
Saying no isn’t terrible. Saying yes doesn’t make you a victor. No doesn’t have to be limiting. Maybe it’s the one word that opens up space for the infinite. Our time here is precious and limited. It’s important to be deliberate about what we do with it. Discerning how we use this gift of life is one of the most valuable ways we can spend our time. Knowing God is what gets us there. No guilt. No judgment. No good or bad. Just know.
While I know all of our journeys are unique, most of us can relate to the frustration of trying to discern God’s will in our lives – especially when it comes to making important decisions. My prayer for you is that you will spend some alone time with God and trust that with him, you will know.
Read last week’s post here.