When I was eleven months pregnant with our second child (okay, okay, it was only eight-and-a-half, but it felt like eleven), I picked up our three-year-old at preschool only to have his teacher stop me at the door.
“You know,” she said, reaching behind her for a clipboard, “Lincoln hasn’t taken the bird home this semester.”
I glanced down at the sign up list. There was only one slot still open. The 10-day spring break. Also known as seven days longer than any of the other slots. Also known as a window of time that included my due date.
I hesitated. Just as I was about to grab the pen because that is what I do, I sign up for things, I say yes to things, I keep shoving more into my calendar even when it screams out for relief, the line of parents jostled me from behind and my unborn son kicked me in the lungs.
“Oof,” I said, dropping the pen. “I’ll get back to you.”
That night at home I told Daryl we’d probably be taking the class bird home over spring break. He stared at me. Through me.
“That’s so not happening,” he said.
“But everyone is supposed to take the bird home and we haven’t signed up for it yet!” I protested.
“Just tell them no,” he said. “We are having a baby, so we are not having a bird.”
As my guilt simmered all night like a fine pot of stock, I pondered this idea. Could I really just say no? Was it that simple? Not my circus, not my…bird?
Why say no when it feels so good to say yes? Saying yes makes people happy—the boss, the spouse, the Sunday School director, the neighbor, the child, the friend. Saying yes is easier than saying no. Saying yes is fun. Yes to the late night, yes to the extra ice cream, yes to the additional project, the adrenaline, the speed, the stress, the sense that we will be infinitely capable and unencumbered by our own limits if we just keep saying yes.
Yet we are finite people with limited time, energy, and resources. Every yes we say is an implicit no to something else. We must treat our yes with care and purpose, lest we yes ourselves into the abyss. Without no, we are never really saying yes.
Hi, I’m Courtney and I’m a Yes-a-holic. Perhaps you’re one, too. A Yes-a-holic is someone who says yes way too often. Far, far too often. Yes to people, yes to events, yes to more stuff, yes to taking on yet another thing.
Yes-a-holics default state of being is busy. They wear their “Stressed Out” badges like marks of honor. They repeatedly, continually sign up for things they should decline. They are constantly inundated by stuff I don’t need.
Yes-a-holics can often be recognized by the way they walk (quickly), talk (with overtones of self-importance), and listen (not well). They’re often spotted multitasking while in grocery lines, paying no attention in meetings, and staring blankly at their computer screens at 11pm wondering how they will fit it all in.
Anybody with me?
My default is yes. Yes, I’ll take that on. Yes, I’ll sign up for that. Yes, I can fit that into my schedule. I’ll be right over. I’ll write another sermon; I’ll wear on-trend but completely appropriate shoes; I’ll come bearing vegan, nut-free, gluten-free cupcakes.
Then I’ll wonder why my soul is so exhausted that I haven’t spent more than five minutes alone with Jesus in two weeks and those were when I was driving. And I’m a pastor.
It has to stop, friends. We have to stop saying yes to everything so we can say yes to God, to ourselves, to the things that matter, to our purpose in this world.
And therein lies the question. What is the purpose God has given you? Why are you here? What is your mission?
We cannot do it all, and our lives will be shaped by what we choose to do. So let’s choose wisely.
Say a full yes to a few things, and no to the rest.
Maybe we can learn together.
What is one thing in your life you need to say no to? What is one thing God may be calling you to say yes to?