“No, Because I Love You.”

NO.  It’s one of the shortest words in the English language.  It can be one of the hardest words to say and it can be one of the hardest words to hear.  As a parent of a toddler, this can be one of the most used words in your vocabulary.  It can also be one of the most frustrating words to hear as your child learns to say it back to you as a response to almost EVERYTHING!  As the parent of a teenager, the word “No” can make you one of the most disliked people on the planet.  There is just something about that small, two letter word that stirs up some strong emotions in a person.

As I’ve told you in a previous post, in parenting my own children, I’ve come to learn a lot about God and why He does some of the things that He does.  You see, as a parent there are times when it is absolutely necessary to say, “No.”  For instance, I will tell my children, “No,” when whatever they are wanting or attempting to do will cause them or someone else harm.  If I can see something they are going to do will cause imminent danger, then as a parent it is my duty to tell them, “No.”  There are other times I tell my children, “No,” because what they want is not the best choice and I know there is a better option.  Like when my child wants to sit down with a bag of chips five minutes before supper is ready, I know she will ruin her appetite with junk and not eat the healthier choice of a home cooked meal.  Other times I have to say, “No,” because they have broken a rule and I have to follow through on a consequence.  (That’s a tough one and makes me very unpopular.)  And finally, there’s other times I say, “No,” because I know something that they don’t know and by saying, “No,” I am setting them up for something way better.  One time my daughter wanted to have a friend spend the night.  I said, “No,” because I knew that the following day we were having a surprise birthday party for her.  If I would have said, “Yes,” it would have messed up the plans we had for her prior to the party, which was a special daddy/daughter date where my husband presented her with her purity ring. She was quite upset when I told her, “No,” but said, “It was so worth it,” when she found out the reason why.

On the flip side, hearing the word “No” is pretty hard to swallow sometimes too.  My husband tends to be very frugal with our money.  I, on the other hand, tend to be a free spender.  Over the last several years, I’ve become a little more respectful of his wishes on how we spend our money.  I will ask him before making larger purchases and I must say,  I still get a little miffed when he tells me, “No.”  And don’t even get me started when I tell one of my children to do something and she tells me, “No.”  Even if she doesn’t verbalize the word, but in action says it loud and clear, this momma gets mad!  Then there’s times when someone else tells me, “No,” and it just causes disappointment, like when I ask a friend to do something and they can’t.  It may be for a good reason, but it’s disappointing just the same.  “No” is just not a fun word!

So where am I going with this?  Well, when I think about God and His Word, there are many times He tells us, “No.”  And as I listed above, there are so many different reasons for saying, “No.”  The difference between me as a parent and God, besides the obvious, is that God is always good and He’s always just.  There are times I will simply say, “No,” because I’m in a bad mood.  It may have nothing to do with what I’m being asked, but in my selfishness I will say, “No.”  God is not like that.  In every situation and in every response, He is totally good and totally righteous.  His response is always for our good and His glory.  It’s never just because that’s what He feels like at that moment.  In my good moments, even when it’s hard, I will say, “No,” because I love my children and I know that it is best for them.  God’s response is always because He loves us and wants the best for us.  Many times I think we forget that.  We start to think that God just doesn’t want us to have any fun or that He’s punishing us, but that’s just not the case.

The problem is, we are human and we are sinful-each and every one of us.  There are no exceptions.  In the beginning when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He only had one “No.” “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17.  Now God was doing this not because He was holding out on them, but because He was looking out for them.  It was not only for their safety, but because He wanted something better for them.  He loved them.  They were His children and He wanted the best for them.  But, because they sinned and chose to disobey, we too are now sinful and often choose to disobey.  His love for them did not change in their disobedience, but with their disobedience came consequence.  Their consequence was removal from the garden and their ability to walk daily in His presence without shame and ultimately death.

God has not changed.  His love for us has not changed.  He is still the same God that walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  The difference is the sin in us.  In the garden there was only need for one “No,” but once sin entered in, there was need for more “No’s.”  Once the untainted bond between God and man was broken, the Bible became the most effective way for God to communicate His love to all the generations that have followed.  It isn’t merely a history book or a book of rules, but a comprehensive way for us to learn how God loves us and how we should love Him. 

There are people who claim that “their God” is a god of love and acceptance, and that we must be reading the Bible wrong if we disagree with their interpretation of what is right or wrong.  They can’t comprehend that a “good and loving” God would tell them, “No.”  They can’t believe that a “good and loving” God would have consequences for behaviors that He says are not acceptable.  And don’t even mention that this same God will send people to Hell for not accepting His Son.  Its seems inconceivable to them that a God that says, “No,” could possibly be loving, so they choose to omit the “No’s” they don’t agree with and only focus on the parts of the Bible that fit with what they consider loving.  This is what I must challenge, because I am a flawed human being and I love my children.  I absolutely want the best for them in their lives and because of that, I must at times tell them, “No,” set boundaries, and give consequences.  If I chose to be completely tolerant of any and all behaviors that they chose to participate in, I would be neglectful.  It is not loving to allow my children to play with a loaded gun just because they want to.  It is not loving for me to say, “Yes,” to every request they make just because I don’t want them to get angry with me.  And it is not loving of me to not have consequences for breaking rules, therefore teaching them that they are the most important thing in the universe and they don’t have to respect authority.  So why do we believe the only way that God could be loving and good is by never telling us, “No,” and never having consequences when we disobey His rules?

So when the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” God is still loving.  Just because we don’t like the message, does not make it less true.  Because God loves us, He says, “No.”  He accepts us right where we are, but loves us enough to not let us stay there.  Verse 11 goes on to say, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Romans 5:8 also says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the price that we deserve to pay for our disobedience.  His only requirement is that we turn from disobedience and accept His free gift of forgiveness.  It’s like He’s saying, “I love you enough to say, ‘No.’  I have something so much better for you, if you will just trust me.  Do you trust me enough to obey?”

As Christians, it’s sometimes hard to address sin in those around us, be it in other Christians or non-Christians.  We can come off as judgmental and intolerant, but I don’t think that is the case with most Christians.  Maybe we just need to change our approach.  Most of us know first hand what it’s like to disobey God’s “No’s” and then experience the freedom of living in obedience.  I used to be some of those things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6, but thank God for verse 11. Now I know first hand that what God had to offer was so much better.  It wasn’t about Him telling me, “No.”  It was about Him telling me, “Yes.”  “Yes, I love you.  Yes, I accept you.  Yes, I forgive you and yes, now you are free.”  If you are a Christian, you should have had a similar experience.  So maybe we need to talk more about that.  I think it’s ok to say, “No, I don’t condone what you are doing, but I love you.  No, God doesn’t condone what you are doing, but He loves you.  Let me tell you what He offered me in place of those things and how it changed my life.  He is offering it to you too.”  On the flip side, if we choose not to address these things, is it possible that we will “love” people straight into hell in the name of acceptance and tolerance?

There are still times in my life when God tells me, “No.” I still don’t like it, but because I know He is faithful, He is good, and He is just, I will trust Him.  I will trust that His “No” is what’s best for me.  It will keep me safe or it will give me the opportunity to experience something even better.  Do you trust His “No’s?”  If so, share your story.  You never know who may end up saying, “Yes!” to Christ.

Because I’m Forgiven,

Better Late Than Never

Fear. Expectations.  Failure.  Pride.  Oh how I hate those words, the feelings they stir in me and the actions that they produce in me!  I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist.  Through the years, it has lessened slightly, yet still lurks in the background of everything I do.  The earliest memories I have included this trait of mine.   When given a task, assignment or challenge it was all or nothing.  I insisted on doing my best and it being the best (whatever that “it” was). 

The strive for perfection has cost me through the years in both my mental and physical health.  But the biggest cost has been in missed opportunities.  You see, because I am a perfectionist, in my mind everything I do must be “perfect” in my eyes.  Unfortunately, perfection is unattainable.  My standards of perfection have always been unattainable.  No matter how much effort I invest in whatever I’m doing, it just never seems to be enough, which brings me to my next fatal flaw…I’m a pessimist.  When you mix these two traits together, it can be a death sentence to dreams.  Let me explain.  If I am given a task to do or asked to do something, I first think, almost subconsciously, “can I complete this task to perfection?”  If the answer is “no”, I won’t even try. If the answer is “yes”, then I start to think of every possible scenario of how this task could go wrong or opposition I could face.  Then comes the mental death of that dream, idea or task.  I can literally talk myself out of doing something just because there is a possibility that 1. I could fail, 2. It would not be to my standards of perfection, or 3. It will not meet someone else’s expectations. 

I tell you all this so that you can understand a little bit about me and the reason behind starting this blog.  Let me first say that I did not start this blog because “everyone is doing it.”  That’s just not the way that I work.  I started this blog because for years I have been disobedient.  I am a Christian.  I’ve known Christ since I was a child, but took a “sabbatical” during most of my high school and college years, for lack of a better word.  God was still actively pursuing me during that time, but in my stubborn spirit, I chose to run away for a time.  I will talk about that in another post.  For many years, I have felt compelled to journal, write and speak.  Many people have encouraged me to pursue those areas.  I would keep a journal for a few days, weeks or maybe even a few months and then quit.  On several occasions, I have been asked to speak to different groups of people, but nothing consistent.   I’ve thought about it.  I’ve prayed about it.  I’ve talked about it.  I even made a special place in my house so that I could read, write and study.  Here I am years later, still thinking, praying and talking about it, but not actively doing it.  So, this blog is my accountability.  It is my legacy to my children.  It’s a compilation of my life stories, God encounters, and random thoughts on life.  Why have I not done it up until this point?… Expectations.  Failure.  Pride.  Fear that I will not live up to my own and others expectations.  Fear that I will fail and everyone will witness it.  Fear that pride in a job well done will ultimately cause me to fail.  Oh, the tangled web we weave when we listen to the one who deceives!

Recently, God has been tugging at my heart again.  He’s been gently wooing me back to this calling that He gave me years ago.  He reminded me just this morning that so many that were called before me also ran from their assignments as well.  Jonah ran and ended up in the belly of a whale. (Jonah 1:1-17)  Moses fled to Midian and was called back by a burning bush (Exodus 2). Peter ran away when times got tough, even though Christ warned him he would and Peter vehemently denied it. (Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75)  So, there’s hope for me.  There is hope that even though I’ve ran away for years, scared of failure and opposition, and just plain being lazy and apathetic, He can still use me. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Phil. 1:6

So, here I am, hoping that through my obedience I can somehow speak life into others.  I hope to inspire and spur you on to good deeds.  It may not always be “perfect”, but I promise to be me.  I promise to be real and authentic, because this life is hard and we all need a friend to walk with us.  I hope that you will walk along with me.