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I have gotten myself into some very sticky and tricky situations in life simply because of my inability to say ‘no’ straight off. The stickier the situation has become the more it has required of me to speak out from that uneasy and inevitable corner, the word I least want to say, ‘no’. I think it probably comes from my concern of hurting another person’’s feelings, possibly making them feel rejected, worrying how they will react and cope or wondering how I will be able to handle the conflict or disappointment that may follow. Or perhaps it is me, feeling that I am failing somehow to meet a need.
Being terribly sensitive towards another person’s feelings and ‘positive’ all the time does not necessarily work for another’s good. ‘Yes’ does not always mean love and ‘no’ the reverse. We speak the truth in love and faithful are the wounds of a friend.
As children we tend to grow up hearing the word ‘no’ on a fairly regular basis from our parents or adults in general, usually for our protection and guidance and to keep us within safe boundaries. Sometimes, in younger lives, the word is overused and can become a source of negativity or unhelpful experience which can later trigger strong reactions or emotions, such as feelings of oppression, denial of freedom, lack of hope or general discouragement.
In childhood, it can seem like the thing most longed for is the one we are denied. The one banned item becomes the most attractive and dazzling with qualities outshining and outstripping all the rest. We hold on tightly to it as if our lives depend upon it, refusing to loosen our grip!
As we gain independence and grow older it becomes a little more difficult to receive the word ‘no’ from someone. We may be denied the right to operate as we would like to, or decide what appears best, logical, or even ‘godly’ in our own eyes. It can seem frustrating and perhaps later, humbling or disappointing. Often pride can rise up in protest somewhere along the line, with all kinds of excuses. We have the capabilities, we have the knowhow, we have everything that it takes to do that thing in our sights, we are completely right for that job or position, why then should we be denied it? Or why should we not just ‘go for it’?
When I first heard a talk by a speaker that women were not to teach in the church, I felt a big ‘NO’ slapped down on the table before me and was mortally offended. Why should I not? I had been allowed to teach in church on a few occasions and I felt that it had impacted lives. I did OK. Why should I not do this one thing that appeared to have been blessed? It seemed a little unreasonable to say the least, particularly, as from the age of 17 I had been out in the workplace operating at a very equal level with both men and women. That was the norm. That was the way things were done. Preaching in church was just another door of experience that had opened up to me. At least that was what it felt like at the time.
The sting of someone saying ‘no’ was a severe blow to my pride…and sense of fairness…. And yet as my indignation began to cool, I realised I had never paused for one moment to considered the effect it was truly having on the body of Christ. I had never thought for one moment that God may perfectly be within His rights to say ‘no’ and divide giftings and callings to His body as He sees fit. God is not of this world, He is the creator of man and woman and has designed us to flourish in the way that He ordained and foreknew according to His divine order. This is not something just affecting the physical but the spiritual too, in ways unseen.
I had never stopped to consider the men in the church and the potentially detrimental effect it could have on them as men by a) not encouraging them in their God-given roles as leaders and b) by presuming it would be of no consequence that they were coming under women teachers and women’s authority, no matter how okay it appeared at first. I had also been blind to the effects on women, who, operating in roles they were not designed to operate in, were becoming in nature something contrary to what God had intended. In a nutshell, turning God’s order upside down and denying the truth.
Was I willing for just one moment to examine my own concepts of right and wrong, in the light of God’s word and let the bible be my rule of thumb? Was I willing to embrace as a woman those areas of giftings which God was saying were good for me, be content in my calling and seek to bring to the body of Christ that which was lacking? Was I willing to let go of that which God had designated for a man?
We are all a part of His precious body, partakers of His flesh and bone, not looking to our own interests but to the interests of others and ultimately to Him alone. Let us open to Him our hands and hearts in freedom, loosening our grips on the things we think will bring us happiness and fulfilment, because our lives do not necessarily depend upon them nor do the lives of others, we all depend upon God and His perfect plan for us.