News of another delay in our son’s adoption paperwork reached our ears last spring like the devastation of war.
Five years deep into the waiting and working we lacked only one set of signatures from an Ethiopian government agency before our family court date could be set. Fearing I could not endure another unknown number of months without laying eyes and hands on my son, we began tentatively planning a visit to his orphanage. As we waited on approval from our agency we looked at calendars and schedules, scratching our heads with confusion at our busy, chaos-filled days.
During this suspended animation I got a text from a close writer friend asking, “Are you going to the Festival of Faith & Writing?” This simple question stopped me dead in my tracks as I worked my day job as a staff pharmacist and my heart skipped a beat because I knew exactly what event in Michigan she was referring to.
I knew it was a big, freaking deal in the world of Christian writing.
World renowned authors, professors, and speakers would be present to offer lectures and group discussions. I knew connections could be made and book deals could materialize. It was a chance to grow and learn as a writer in a way I might never get to in the rural space I now occupied.
And I wanted to go.
But, as soon as I thought the word, “YES” the spirit within me whispered, “no.”
I ignored that small whisper thinking that surely I could find a way to balance these two important events in my life. God had called me to both things, adoption and writing, so surely he meant for me to grasp both with equal measure. Thus, I started doing what I always do when God doesn’t seem to be working within my timetable. I take things into my own hands and attempt to bend the forces of nature He created to my will. I started looking at schedules, budgets, and feasibility. I cajoled and massaged numbers and dates. I checked and rechecked flights.
But it was no use.
Every single avenue was blocked.
Every resource I needed to complete the writing trip was unavailable. I knew my whispered “no” was no. I just couldn’t understand it within the space of that moment.
Two months later it was clear.
Nine days after my friend set foot in Michigan for the Festival, I stepped on a plane bound for Africa, and after two days of traveling I held my son for the first time.
When God said no to my request, I did not know that I was letting go of a good thing to take hold of the best thing He had for me.
That simple no has re-framed the way I view what God is doing in my life. It has made me take a hard look at my everyday life through the lens of no.
What will happen if I say no?
What if no is used to make space for God to work in the way He sees best and not in the way I want?
These are the things I wonder as I rock that Ethiopian boy to sleep, the one who came home to stay last July. And they make me think of Paul.
Paul was familiar with no. Twice God used the Spirit to prevent his group from entering Asia when they tried to cross over. Instead they went to Troas and from there they entered Philippi, a large city in Macedonia. It is here that we see Lydia, a seller of cloth and worshiper of God, converted to Christianity. She is considered the first Christian believer in all of Europe. Her conversion was the beginning of a movement that would change the face of European history. (Acts 16:6-15 NIV)
Paul wanted something good when he reached for Asia.
God gave him what was best.
We cannot always see it for ourselves, this good and best. It’s an elusive, shape-shifting master that often comes disguised in the form of our own will. And so, we are blinded to what God wants because what we want is good, too.
That’s why no is important.
[Tweet “The no of God keeps us centered within His will and grounded in His love. “]
After several months of experiencing no with God I made the decision to enter into a dedicated year of it. I have chosen to make this the year of no. I know it sounds odd but in my heart, it feels right. I have submitted to surrendering only to the work God has chosen to give me and none other. I’m deliberately staying close to home and giving my time and energy to my family. I’m not over committing myself to projects and groups out of obligation.
[Tweet “I’m pulling back from the culture of this world so that I can be present within the culture of the Father. “]
Saying no is allowing me to become who He designed me to be without the extraneous noise of the world interfering. And I am discovering that this is the only way I was meant to serve the Father, heart open, fully present, knees bowed, with my back to the sounds of the world.