Listening to: Frozen Soundtrack
Writing about: Drawing the line, then kind of hating it.
Source Material, lost to the ages.
In College I read an article that changed my life.
It was called On Saying No
It started something like this:
“If I were an Old Testament prophet,
I’d tie a rope around my robe,
step onto my soap box,
shake my finger,
and yell NO !”
I’d love to cite it, but it was a 10th generation photocopy,
I have no idea what the source was.
It was the first time in my life that I had considered the idea that saying no to things,
could be a holy and moral act.
That was a very big deal.
Career and Character defining, for me.
Professional Nice-Guy, Apparent doormat
I currently lead the missions department of my church.
I regularly lead teams of volunteers working on
Benevolence / Charitable Giving
Discernment and stewardship of donated money
All manner of issues related to poverty
The wild-west of international missions and missionary funding
I often feel like I am the worst person in the world for this job.
I say that exact phrase all the time.
For a guy tasked with leading the part of our church that looks most like the church,
I say no to a LOT of great things,
I say no to people with real needs
I say no to ministry ideas and side projects
I say no to missionaries, who are doing great things
I don’t like doing it. It gives me no joy.
But I do it anyway. And I don’t feel bad about it.
When I imagine the ideal mission pastor,
I imagine a hugging machine.
The kind of person who always waits to hear the whole story.
I imagine someone who would lose a lot of sleep,
Shortly after they ran out of money.
The Personal No:
Quick Side note:
All of the same principles that make me an awkward fit for my job
Make me kind of a bad friend, and generally a cold-hearted jerk.
(A cold-hearted jerk who is very happy with his time management and family life, so eat that!)
In my Defense, Kind of
(warning, it gets a little sermony)
This week I said no to 5 kids who wanted to ride the bus to Vacation Bible School
Tears were shed (not mine…though I did really hate it).
Want to know why?
Our busses were full, and I am responsible for the safety of the kids we pick up.
I regularly have folks who get turned down in our benevolence office come find me.
The volunteers send them to me at the: “Let me see your manager” schtick.
When they come to me, I say no to them.
Want to know why?
Because our volunteers work hard to maintain policies
that don’t contribute to systems that keep people poor.
Also, they know their “clients,”
Who am I to overstep them?
They are working hard to give hard answers.
I truly believe we (especially ministers) are conditioned to cringe at NO
But every time we say yes, we are implicitly saying no to something else.
Yes, I can pick you up and get you a place to stay tonight — No, I will not be home for dinner.
Yes, we will keep your lights on —- No, we are out of funds.
Yes, I will be responsible — No, you do not need to be.
Yes, I am your savior and provider — ok, so that was a little heavy handed, but you get it, right?
And, here’s the rub:
One day, in my proud and cavalier boundary setting.
I will say no to Jesus.
Or at least that’s how he puts it.