Two years ago the world-famous theologian, pastor, author, and visionary, John RW Stott, died on 27 July 2011. I remember joining nearly two thousand others in St Paul’s Cathedral at his memorial service: archbishops and bishops were there; former churchwardens and vicars galore; scholars and publishers and laypeople. But missing were his wife, children and grandchildren – for he never married. Rather throughout his life he focused on fulfilling his calling with a laser-like focus. He said no to becoming a bishop; he said no to marriage; he said no to many good and worthy projects – articles, books, organizations – that would have distracted him from what he believed God was calling him to do. (And such was his personal discipline that he also always said no to seconds on food. Hmm; I could learn from that one!)
That morning before I went to the memorial service, I received an invitation to write a book for a respected American Christian publisher – a publisher with whom I would love to work. In an economic climate where publishing contracts can be like hidden treasure, I was thrilled to be considered. The project would be fun but the deadline a killer – just eight weeks hence. I dreamed and thought and pondered and prayed. But sitting in St Paul’s Cathedral, taking in the throngs of people changed through the witness of one man’s commitment and focus, I realized that I had to Just Say No. I was torn, for in saying yes I would finally be a published author. But what would be the cost?
A frazzled life in the coming days and weeks. A husband and children wondering where their wife and mother disappeared. Less sleep. Less prayer. Less fun with girlfriends. Less exercise and more eating of the wrong things.
The hidden but bigger cost, however, would come from not doing what I know I need to tackle. Namely finishing of the draft of my book – the memoir of how I looked for love and acceptance in men, and finally found my identity in God. Of how I’ve learned to turn off the talk fuelled by self-hatred and to listen instead to the One who created me and loves me.
What’s your calling? Who has God made you to be? Perhaps you’ve already sussed what drains or energizes you. If not, or if you get muddled and sometimes say yes to things you shouldn’t – as I do – join me in slowing down and listening to God’s whisper. Saying no might mean that later, for something better, you can Just Say Yes.
Is God asking you to say no – or yes? Is he inviting you to a new adventure that he’d love for you to embark on with him? Does he want you just to slow down? What are you sensing?