When we say no to something that we normally say yes to, we create space to examine why it is that we would say yes.
When I’ve decided that, upon returning home from dropping the kids at school, I won’t make another cup of coffee or grab something to eat before heading down to the dungeon to work, it forces me to ask the question: Why do I actually want that cup of coffee and something sweet and bready right now?
I’m not eating because I want to be filled with food. I’m not drinking because I’m thirsty.
When we who instinctively say yes to all we’re asked to do force ourselves to say no, we come face-to-face with the fact that our “yes” is tied to our identity. We want people to like us, to approve of us.
We give up alcohol or chocolate for Lent, and we discover that “comfort food” is all too real: we’ve chosen numbness over peace, perhaps; or dumped pleasure into our holes of aching and longing.
Listening to people tell their stories about sex and spirituality last week, I heard that saying no to physical intimacy was a road toward self-understanding: how the physical longing for intimacy was tied to a deeper longing to connect with anther person.
Perhaps, upon saying no, we discover that the onions of Egypt are keeping us from discovery in the wilderness–discovery that people don’t live by bread alone; discovery that our God cares enough about God’s people to guide us through the wilderness and provide for us there. (Go get some counsel from Chuck DeGroat on this one. In fact, go buy the book.)
When I’m doing Lent well, my no is making me examine what my yes says about me–and what it says about me and God. I claim in word that what God has given me in Christ is more than sufficient.
But am I looking for more? Or, better, am I looking to less?
Post Script: I just discovered that saying No was on the Sarcastic Lutheran’s mind today as well. Take note, indeed!