Just Say No
So I was drinking from a dangerous cocktail. My relationship with God was being defined by my performance, I was throwing myself into my work as a way to comfort myself through my marriage issues, and I was a people pleaser with a high desire for affirmation.
But what made things even worse is that I was good at what I was doing. My relational style of leadership is good at building people up and getting the most out of them. My organizational skills and vision are at least above average. My capacity to formulate a plan, get people on board and get things done is high. Just sayin’. Sometimes I feel like I focus so much on my failings in this blog, it feels good to finally point out a positive.
Problem was: this positive was both a blessing and a curse. Effectiveness leads to more affirmation and thus more opportunity. Not wanting to let anyone down led to more ‘yes’ answers when presented with opportunity. It was a cycle. Fueled by pride. With no one looking out for me, and me not looking out for myself, I was gradually became overwhelmed. Sometimes unable to face my list for the day because there was so much on it. Meeting on top of meeting. Training, recruiting, and encouraging leaders. Counseling. Teaching. Visiting. Little time for reflecting, planning or evaluating. Certainly not for meditating or praying.
At the root, though, was not a desire to glorify God. The unspoken desire of my heart was to glorify myself. Seeking the affirmation I desire. Validation for who I was; my calling and my relationship with God. I couldn’t say no; I wanted things to rely on me – and for the most part I got my wish.
Everyone has a limited capacity. Whether or not you train leaders to carry forth your vision, there is only so much time for that as well. So rather than doing anything great, I was doing a lot of things well. (Another nefarious strategy of mine was to call other churches. Partly out of a desire to learn, but also partly to gloat about how much better I was doing than they were. Uplifting stuff.) Comparison with others was a main method of evaluation, rather than looking at my gift set, potential or calling.
Brokenness will change your pride. Losing (or giving away) everything will change your outlook. As I begin to answer the rumblings of ministry again – The Calling – I’m more focused. What do I say yes to and what no? What tasks or opportunities would benefit from my skill and gift set and what could anyone else do? Decision making 101 – focus on what to say yes or no to. My identity is not dependent on my performance, it is rooted in Christ.
I don’t want my family short-changed. They deserve the best of me, not what is left over. Particularly my wife. Previously I was able to rationalize starving her of my attention because I wasn’t getting what I needed. Regardless of my needs, my God given responsibility is to my relationship with her. Other-centered love rather than self-centered. Sounds like another blog topic.
I don’t want my ministry short-changed. God has uniquely gifted me. (How many people-oriented, pastoral, mathematicians do you know?) Saying yes to everything non-discriminantly, no matter how good, may cause me to miss out on the main thing(s) God has for me.
Anything that comes my way will have to pass through this new filter. Even more, my wife is included in the decision making/prayer process; gathering her perspective on the drain to my time of any new opportunity. I’ve always wanted her to have part ownership of my ministry and this is one way that will happen. This is about both of us and I don’t want her to again resent my job as she would a mistress. For me it is a calling, the ‘job’ is part of me. Her encouragement and support is necessary; I’ve done ministry having to fight against her opposition. Balance.
As I’ve said before, my journey is toward strength. Strength has boundaries. Boundaries are enforced. Enforcement takes strength. In mathematics that’s called the transitive property (I always enjoy throwing in a good math reference.) It may involve letting some people down, but ‘no’ is becoming part of my vocabulary. I’ve already thrown it out there a couple times. Good opportunities to make a difference. But they weren’t the best thing for me, not what God is drawing me toward.
The end result of this is that I’ll be even more effective. Soaring with my strengths. Doing the things I am made for in the quantities that I’m made for. Saying ‘no’ is a challenge. But it is freeing not being tied to people’s expectations.