Yep. You read that right. It’s ok if we can’t be friends anymore…
In her book, Longing for More, Ruth Haley Barton says that, “Discipline is saying no to something in order to say yes to something else. So is discipling.”
We want it all. We think we’ve earned, or perhaps just somehow deserve it all. But life is a series of well-made choices, or it isn’t. It’s choosing, in any moment, to bring life or to help someone, or to welcome the stranger, to love anyway, to forgive, or to choose not to do any of those.
We can’t hold grudges AND forgive. We can’t show mercy AND demand justice. We can’t stand on our soapbox AND be in the gutter. We can’t do everything all the time AND take a Sabbath.
We have to learn to say “no.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure it was my first word… I knew how to say it once (or maybe twice…) Then something happened and I ended up in ministry for a living and forgot what it meant, at least in the important things.
It’s not just a matter of saying no for me, either. It’s crucially important to have boundaries and to live within them so that I can live a blessed life within them for as long as possible and not face burn-out on a regular basis. It’s even more important to teach others who are coming into a life of ministry the value of “no.”
I’m not sure why it’s so easy for us to think of our congregations, our youth groups, our classes or our programs as our flock and to bear their burdens, to carry their crosses and to lose sleep in their troubles, but when it comes to those that we disciple, that we mentor and that look up to us as examples, we readily display poor top-down relational habits, ignore their circumstances, and minimize their struggles. Our standards go up and our investment goes down. There’s a tendency for the walls to go up and for accountability to go down.
Sure, Jesus looked Peter straight in the face and said, “Get behind me, Satan.” But he also took him aside in John 21 and talked to him in terms of the deepest sort of love.
Peter walked out of a boat for this man. And Jesus climbed a hill for him.
Take discipleship seriously. Take your discipleship seriously. Take discipleship with those around you seriously. Teach them and they’ll teach others. Teach them well and they will teach well. Teach them poorly and they’ll teach poorly, or they will fall away.
May we all be empowered to say no to some things so that we may say yes to the better things.