My five-year-old daughter had been at the neighbor’s house for a while. Should I go get her? I wondered. Our neighbors at that time were a precious Korean family, and I didn’t fear any harm to my daughter, but I struggled to know when she had overstayed her welcome.
I decided to check on her and found her playing sweetly with the older daughter and her bucket of slime. As we left, the mother handed me a loaf of bread, and I told her to please let me know if my daughter ever caused any problems or needed to come home. She nodded and smiled dismissively.
Was she agreeing to set boundaries if needed? Or was she just being polite, as with sending your guest out the door with a gift?
I felt tension with this, as my daughter begged to play there often. I wanted to trust our neighbors and let them say their own no, but they had never once turned her away or sent her home. Surely she was inconveniencing them.
In an unintentional reversal, what they likely hoped was an act of kindness toward our family actually turned into an area of stress. Cultural differences aside, a clear yes or a clear no from those we are in a relationship with is always a gift.
Turning the question to myself, am I giving a solid yes or no? Or do I try to sidestep conflict by giving a wishy-washy answer? You know, something like, “I’d love to help, if possible,” but I have no intention of following up. Or, “No, it’s no problem at all,” while I do it begrudgingly, annoyed that they would even ask.
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV) The context, here, is Jesus’ teaching against swearing an oath, believing in pride that we can actually make anything come to pass. But it’s not a stretch to see the broader application of simply being people of our word, who say what we mean and mean what we say.
I’m definitely convicted here. Giving a firm but loving yes or no is not my forte. But I am getting better!
One way I’ve specifically grown in this area is by discerning a few of my big always-yeses and my solid always-nos for each season. I come to God open-handed with my relationships, ministries, and hobbies. For the upcoming, definable season (say, the school year), I ask Him to help me know what to save my yeses for. Which people does he want me to invest in? What areas am I called to serve in? If I say yes to anything outside of what He has given me, I am unintentionally saying no to the priorities that matter.
Of course, there is always room to pause, pray, and give an answer later, but let’s determine to give the loving gift of a solid yes or no to those around us.
About the Author:
Corella Roberts makes her home in Northern Thailand where she and her husband partner with an international school to “Serve the Servants.” Their first missionary teaching assignment landed them in the remote bush of Alaska, which you can read about in her book, Colliding with the Call. From tundra to tropics, her life of following Jesus has been nothing less than story-worthy, and she loves using her experiences to encourage others to connect deeply with God at corellaroberts.com.
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