My dear, sweet, adorable, 22 month old nephew recently learned a new word. No. Now I know what you’re thinking…here come the “terrible twos”; the screaming Nooooo as his mom, my very patient sister, drags him out of the grocery store; the falling on the floor crying NO’s that come when a near two-year-old doesn’t get his way. But my dear, sweet adorable nephew isn’t quite there yet. His no is quite simple. It’s direct but without attitude. He sees no need to explain his no away or to couch his no with a million reasons why he’d really just love to but can’t. He doesn’t try to justify it. His No comes without baggage. He just very simply says No.
“E, would you like some more broccoli?”
“No.” as he pleasantly continues to eat the mac and cheese.
“E, are you ready to go inside?”
“No. ” as he goes on about his sandbox business.
My loving auntie request of “E, do you want to sit up here with me and read this special book?” is now sometimes met with a very simple, “no.” as he continues to play on the floor. While my super-Auntie ego would prefer that he explained himself…”I’m sorry Aunt KiKi, I’m just really feeling quite fulfilled playing with my blocks right now…and I’ve just been reading so much with mom these days…and you are just such a wonderful reader and I just feel terrible that I can’t work it into my schedule…” even a two year old can see that sort of explanation for what it is: a load of bologna!
So, if a two year old gets it, why can’t we? Why do we feel the need to justify our no’s, to explain them away? Why don’t we say no with confidence rather than with excuses? Sure sometimes, our justifications are used to save face for the person being rejected with our no, and that’s not a bad thing. But I’m willing to bet that more often than not, we use our made up reasons to save our own face…to make ourselves feel better about saying no. Why is it so hard to live into the word no?
I believe that we are called over and over again to say yes to Sabbath. And in our busy world, saying yes to Sabbath really means saying no to a world of other options: No to a job that requires attention 7 days a week; no to the sports league or sleepovers that requires our time all weekend and pulls us away from the body of faith; no to civic groups or volunteer organizations that pull us out of holy rest; no to friends who drain us instead of fulfill us; no to church when church activities become a burden instead of a joyful expression of the holy.
No. No. No. But in saying no to the things that pull us away from Sabbath, away from the ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting to which we are called, we open ourselves and our families up to the abundant Sabbath gifts of God. While we may lose some social status with the no’s mentioned above, isn’t it worth it to enjoy Sabbath rest and to live into our commandment from God to do so? While there are risks to saying no, it more often means leaving space for yes. Yes, we can have our dear friends over for a meal on Sunday. Yes, we can all sit together as a family in worship this morning. Yes, we can go for a hike and appreciate creation as we move slower today. Yes, we can pray together as a family Sunday evening as we begin a new week with God. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Try it this week. Just say no and see what holy things are revealed and what things you can then say Yes to.
Just say no so you can just say yes.