Gen 2:16 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden . . . [He] made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit . . . The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “If you eat [the tree’s] fruit, you are sure to die.” Gen 2:8, 15-17
One day in São Paulo a woman clapped at our door (a Brazilian substitute for ringing a doorbell). As I walked toward the door, my nine-year-old daughter burst into the living room yelling, “If you let that woman in, I’m running away! This is not a home; it’s a ministry center!” Valerie pounded up the stairs and slammed the door of her bedroom.
Enticed by the pleasure of serving, giving, caring for the many needs around me, I was saying too may yeses to people outside of our home, and thereby saying too many no’s to my own four children.
The price became too high for me, too: I came within a breath of emotional collapse. But God warned me through Valerie. And he intervened through mission leaders who placed me on a ministry sabbatical. For six months I was allowed to care only for myself and for my family while I studied books like Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries and Swenson’s Margins. I began to know God as his daughter, not just his servant.
Slowly, as the sabbatical was extended from six months to twelve to eighteen, I learned to say yes and no more appropriately. “No” protects not only me, but also those who have the first call on my heart’s resources. There is not enough of me to go around for all the needs I see around me. And when I try to live beyond healthy limits for me, I die, emotionally and spiritually if not literally.
“No” is not a dirty word.