When I was growing up, I didn’t want to hear the word “No.” No kid does, really.
“Will you play with me?” No.
“Can I spend the night with Ginger?” No.
“Can I have another cookie?” No.
“Can I stay up late?”
“Can we order pizza?”
No, no and no.
I remember running down the hall and into my parents’ bedroom with my latest request, holding my breath and hoping I didn’t get the dreaded words, “No.”
When I got older, I realized, of course, that there are reasons parents say no…and there are good reasons God says no. When I began to pray to God as a teenager, I remember that same feeling…asking Him something, holding my breath with anticipation and hoping he didn’t say no.
I am convinced that one of the most overlooked kindnesses of God, however, is the beauty of no.
It usually takes some hindsight to realize this, of course.
Looking back, I am thankful for a few key moments in my life where I asked God something and he gently said no. (Sometimes not so gently.)
As a result, I am not really afraid of no anymore.
That doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed – when you pray for something earnestly, something you think would be good for you, would turn your life around, and don’t get it. But I feel secure enough now in God’s wisdom now to be disappointed, but generally not terrified, when he says no.
I wish the opposite were true.
You know what they say, “Yes is the new No.” (At least, that’s what Jim Carrey was told in the movie Yes Man.) Yes, opens doors. No does not. Yes makes you grow. No often does not. Yes leads to a whole other series of events. No does not.
No is safe. Yes is not.
One of the struggles of my recent prayer life is learning to lay something completely down before God and genuinely listen for the answer. Not the kind of prayer where you have a preconceived idea of what you want to do and ask God to bless it. Not the type of prayer where you put a time ultimatum on God, as in, “if I don’t hear from you by next Friday, I’m going to go ahead and do such and such.” The kind of prayer where you pray about something and genuinely wait for the answer.
Because at first – let’s be honest – you only pray for things you want to pray about. Then, you start to pray about things you don’t want to pray about. Difficult, probing, soul-searching things you’re not really sure you want to know the answer to. Prayers where yes vs. no would truly create a fork in the road of your life.
I used to think “no” was the worst answer you could get. Even a “wait” was better than a flat-out no. But the older I get, the more I find my questions to God changing.
Do I need to give more than I’m currently giving?
Are you calling me someday to the mission field?
Is there more I can do for your kingdom?
Are you calling me to love this person?
If I gave my life to you, would you re-write it?
And therein lies the shift.
I used to be afraid of No, but now I think I am afraid of Yes.