What are you “no” to?

But Jesus said “No!”

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 5:37 Just say a simple, “Yes I will,” or “No, I won’t.”

In her book Saving Grace (Convergent, 2021), Kirsten Powers tells her painful story of trauma recovery and ways she is learning to live by grace. In her chapter about boundaries, she says “I am a ‘no’ to contempt, cruelty, disrespect, shaming, judging, bad-faith accusations, bullying, gaslighting, demonizing, dehumanizing, lying, both-sides-ism (creating false equivalency between the behavior of different people or groups), and any and all forms of bigotry. I am a no to having conversations with people who are committed to misunderstanding me.” She continues by identifying practical ways she has learned to say “no,” so she has space in her life to say “yes” to grace.

Shutterstock: Kastoluza

Saying “no” can be painful. And we love avoiding or minimizing pain—at least I do. But in her wonderful Transfiguration sermon on Sunday, Jess Bennett linked suffering with glory, inviting us to explore that connection during this season of Lent. And Jonathan Millard in his Ash Wednesday sermon told us fasting (saying “no” to whatever enthralls us) intentionally creates space for us to draw close to God and to discover he is kind and gracious, not angry and vindictive. Jonathan challenged us to let the cravings we feel when we say “no” stir in us our longing for our Father. Most of all, fasting in secret challenges our “approval addiction,” setting us free from our desperate need for the approval and affirmation of others.

I’m working on my “no” list. Then I’ll move on to my “yes” list. Will you join me? And then use this Lent to explore ways to make your “no’s” stick?

During these forty days, I’m deep-diving into Matthew and Hebrews. So I’ll close with this encouragement from Hebrews 12:10-12:

Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

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