"No" was a word that didn't really exist in my vocabulary. Particularly in response to being asked to do something social or service oriented or that I thought I "ought" to do.
The word "no" entered my vocabulary in seminary, when a dear friend Leslie reminded me I'm not superwoman and shouldn't expect myself to do everything. I have limitations. I need self care. I need boundaries. Say "no," she said.
I didn't realize boundaries were such a major theme in my life until recently. I was talking with my coach about situations in my life and current ministry where I felt like a line had been crossed, I felt manipulated, guilted into doing something, I felt like people were requiring too much of me. And then I realized, I can say "no." I can define a boundary that makes sense for me, for my family, and for the church.
It's a hard thing to move from a place of always saying "yes" to others, always putting the needs of others above your own to a place of creating safe and clear boundaries in which my own needs are respected and valued. In my line of work, sometimes it can even feel wrong. I'm supposed to be super available, always giving, practically Jesus. Wait, no, no I'm not.
As a person of faith, I am called to reach out to others. I'm to share good news and speak truth in love. I'm also to be prayerful, centered, full. As a church, we are to reach out, share good news, comfort, love, challenge injustice. And we are also called to recognize our limits and work within them. None of us, individuals or collectives, are called to do it all.
Boundaries are a hard thing to figure out. Not all boundaries are good. In fact, I'd argue that some of the lines churches and people draw are unfair and hurtful. Still, some boundaries are good and necessary, especially when they are intentional and loving....set for the purpose of building care, safety, and love.
Jeannie, my coach, said often when we pray for patience God doesn't give us patience, God gives us lots of opportunities to practice patience. So. True. I know as I'm more aware, more prayerful, more intentional about desiring boundaries that are healthy and safe and good...I will be presented with many opportunities to practice these boundaries.
So, if you hear me say "no," please don't take it personally. I need to. If I don't pick up the phone or answer your email right away, know I still care about you. I just might be sleeping (no joke, I've been known to sleep 14 hours in a day to catch up), or outside running without my phone in hand, or lost in a good book or ridiculous T.V. sitcom. Know I'm not saying "no" to hurt you. I'm saying "no" to help me.
I don't anticipate this being an easy journey, but I am excited about it.
I'm ready for it.