“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”
I remember watching as my sons as toddlers were learning the meaning of “no.” “No, you can’t run into the street.” “No, you can’t get in the swimming pool without either you Daddy or me with you.” There were so many “Nos”, and most of the time they wanted to challenge every one of them. We don’t like “Nos” because they are negative. The real problem is, they stand in our way of doing what we want to do, or keeping back from us something we want. We want what we want and “no” always runs contrary to those wants, and desires.
Somehow, as we mature, we begin to see the value of “no,” for others and for ourselves. In college, I learned to say “no” to TV so I could study for exams. After gaining weight I went on a diet and learned the value of saying “no” to foods that made me gain weight. Later I learned I needed to say “no” to some options for claiming questionable tax exemptions so that I felt sure when I mailed my tax document to Uncle Sam I could relax in knowing I had been honest. It ultimately means that when we are able to say “no” to those evil or bad choices we enjoy a greater and more satisfying “yes.”
Of course we do not grow up and become saints in adulthood. We always struggle with “Nos”. There is always stress between what we want in the moment and what we know is better for us. Every time I go out to dinner I am faced with what tantalizes my taste buds that I see on the menu and making a better choice for my health. These tugs between what is right and what is immediately gratifying describes the tension-filled nature of our existence, and it also points to our need for help, for encouragement, for God who offers us forgiveness for our sinful nature. God gave us the law to give us life-giving options and to make us aware of our need for God’s grace. There are a million and one questions like these below that we have to deal with every day of our lives, and only by the help of God can we come to deal with the multitude of “Nos” in our lives.
- How can we help each other say No when society and our culture keeps telling us that our immediate gratification demands a Yes.
- How do we say “no” to children who are used to getting almost everything they want?
- How do we say No to ourselves when our credit cards make it so incredibly easy to say Yes?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.