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Posts Tagged ‘saying no’

IMG_20150107_084323086I sat holding our one year old granddaughter as I fed her some dinner. Things went along smoothly at first—but then, as that spoon came close once again, she pressed her lips tightly together and turned her head away. Now I had experienced that tactic before—but it was what happened next that almost caused me to drop spoon and plate and all.

‘No!’ she declared, with great finality.

At first, I thought I had imagined it. Surely she couldn’t talk yet? Of course, I had heard her previous vague attempts at ‘Hi!’ and ‘Up!’ and ‘Boo!’ Now, however, she had said a word I could not dispute—a word she had clearly decided was most useful to have in one’s vocabulary.

I’m sure our little Maxine will have many opportunities to employ this word in the future—much to the annoyance of her parents at times! There will come moments too when it is important she does say it and turn down others who might lead her astray. Even with regard to eating dinner, she seemed to know when she had had enough. But the shock of hearing this tiny word emerge from her mouth caused me to reflect later on how I use it in my own life—for good or for ill.

I wish I had learnt years ago to say no to certain requests a little more often. On occasions, I have too readily agreed to do things—and almost burnt myself out as a result. Yet sometimes I have said no simply because I did not care about someone else’s welfare enough to put myself out for him or her or because I wanted to do something much more enjoyable. And what about those occasions when I have turned God down? How many times has God gently prompted me to take some course of action or challenged me to attempt something new and my immediate response has been a resounding ‘No!’?

I am not so fond of the word ‘obedience’, I have discovered. For some reason, if I am told to do something, I often want to do the exact opposite. I want to reach my own conclusions about what I do or don’t do. I want to weigh it all up and decide for myself. Yet, at this point in my life, I have also realised that, when God calls me to act in a certain way, it truly is much wiser to say yes rather than no. I know I can trust God to lead me well, as Psalm 23 clearly shows. And I know I need to learn from Jesus who always did what his Father called him to do, who chose in that Garden of Gethsemane to do his Father’s will and not his own (Mt 26:39), who did not say no but instead ‘humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!’ (Phil 2:8)

I hope our little granddaughter learns to say no when it’s right to do so. But I also hope and pray she learns to say yes to the many things that will be good for her—and especially to God. And I hope and pray I continue to do the same.

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P1030810If I have ever had any doubt about the capacity of human beings to copy others, it is rapidly being dispelled by our nineteen month old grandson. It behoves all around him to watch what they do and how they speak, because, just when you least expect it, our Zain will say and do the very same thing as you—in exactly the same manner and with the very same intonation!

Several times recently while minding him, I have noticed how he copies my mannerisms—that shake of the head and slight frown as he says a very firm ‘No!’ or that lifting of both hands, palms up and open wide, as he agrees with me that his food is ‘all gone’! But all that pales into insignificance in the light of a sequence of events I observed last week when we were out together.

It happened in a small play area at a local shopping centre. A little girl was playing on the tiny slippery dip there—although I use the word ‘playing’ loosely. She was in fact sitting on the highest point of the slide, completely blocking any other child’s access, with her arm out straight and her hand very definitely commanding everyone to stop. She was also scowling ferociously, warning other children off with a very authoritative ‘Nooo!’ And if any ventured too close, she would quickly add loud crying to her repertoire! However many times this little girl’s mother told her to move, these instructions were ignored.

Zain just stood watching all this, finger in mouth. He didn’t seem too fazed—and a quiet word from Nanna turned his attention to a car he could play in nearby instead. Eventually, the little girl and her mother left—and then it was Zain’s moment. He climbed the couple of steps to the very same spot the little girl had occupied so successfully, turned to another child waiting, put out his arm in the self-same expert, policeman-like manner and said loudly ‘No!’

I was gobsmacked! The whole sequence of events he had observed took only a few moments all up—but that had obviously been long enough for him to take on board an apparently very desirable way of behaving. I had thought he was just innocently observing, when all the time, he was plotting how to use the same method this little girl had employed to his own advantage! Of course, Nanna quickly intervened and nipped these plans in the bud.

No doubt, as Zain grows up, he will copy the behaviour of many other little children and young people—and adults—over the years. No doubt he will make some wrong decisions at times in choosing people to emulate, but I pray he will always be able to hear God’s voice, calling him close and pointing him in the right direction. I pray for his parents and for good friends around him who live in a way that honours God. Above all, I pray the day will come when he chooses to follow Jesus for himself and to imitate his way of life—and that one day, he will be able to say to others, just as the Apostle Paul could:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1

Now that’s the sort of imitating worth putting into practice, don’t you think?

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