The Power of No

We just wrapped up Spring baseball. Concession stands and bleachers. Baseball bats and dirty pants. We had a lot of fun, but we also saw some disappointment. We made it to the county tournament but then lost the first tournament game. As the coach gathered the team together,  I watched and listened. I saw the boy’s long faces, heard the parent’s angst, and then the coach began to speak. He said great things: “Yes, they worked hard; Yes, they improved”, but what I remember most are the No’s: “No, we did not win, No, I do not have trophies for you.”

He said No a lot this season. “No, you can no longer play third base because you weren’t focused. No, you cannot goof off when I am speaking because I have important things to say. No I am not your friend, I am your coach.” He seemed a little harsh at first, but then I grew to respect his method.

Through Spring ball, I realized, my boy needs a little more No in his life. Maybe I do too…

I am also watching and listening to the adolescents in my counseling practice. They  are struggling with their No’s. Many of these kids have mostly been told Yes all their life. Now that No has shown up, they are in my office and they cannot cope. They do not know how to struggle well, how to even handle a No.

They are hearing: “No, I will not be your friend, No, I will no longer date you, No, you did not pass the test, No you did not make the team. No, you did not get the job, No, we are not staying married”…and they are lost.

They are overwhelmed, overindulged and underprepared… No and struggle scare them to death, literally. Suicide and self harm have become coping skills for these kids.  

I am watching and listening…and I am wondering…what can I offer my kids and my clients? I am watching and listening and I am trying to learn. Why don’t these kids know how to struggle, to handle the No? How well do I handle No?

No has purpose.

Struggle is a part of life, scripture promises its arrival. So why do we avoid it like the plague and keep our kids from experiencing it? Why is the No so hard? Even the seasons have a winter and it comes every year. The day leaves us for night, darkness is around the corner consistently.

What if we grew through the struggle? Spring growth comes after winter, and morning is always there after the dark hours. What if the No, the struggle, the dark, the winter,  served a great purpose for us, for our kids? What if we stopped trying so hard to keep them from the struggle, and let it serve it’s lesson?

No prepares us.

I think this starts with me. I cannot take them further than I’ve gone myself. It can start with letting my kids see me struggle and honor God in the midst of it, letting them see me handle a No well, letting them see No draw me closer to Jesus.

After all, I am raising them up to send them out.

The older they get the more No will hit them, the more struggle sneaks in. And I want them strong enough to handle it, to grow from it, to be prepared for what’s ahead.

No protects us.

As a mom, what does this No look like? Am I honoring God with my schedule, my finances, my relationships? Are there enough Nos in these areas? Have I said Yes to too much? Have I set good boundaries with others, with my kids? Am I allowing No to protect my family? Do they know when or how to say No?

No has power.

I don’t always like it. I wish it was endless summer, I wish it was always Yes, but that isn’t how the world works and that isn’t how God works. So why would I make my kids think that is so?

They are also watching and listening…and learning. They learn about struggle from us. They learn how to walk the tough road by watching us limp and bleed and then hold their hand when they are limping and bleeding. Good and hard can go together.

No can teach us things and struggle leads to surrender and surrender leads to life, which is what Christ modeled for us. He said No to his kingdom, No to his wealth, No to temptation and Yes to death.  He limped and He bled, and the world was watching and listening. His No led to the power that raised Him from the dead, the same power that we have access to. He embraced No so that he could say Yes to us.

2  Cor. 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Psalm 119:71 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Romans 5:3 “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”

 

 

Table Talk

Our kitchen table… Chris and I bought it around 18 years ago, soon after we married. We really couldn’t afford it, but Chris really wanted this expensive, Ethan Allen kitchen table… so, the two broke newlyweds bought it with the tax return check that had not yet come in the mail. Well, the check never came, in fact we owed tax money. So we sat, even more broke, at that fancy table and ate PB&Js until we paid it off.

We still sit at this table. We have added the leaf extension, added some chairs, added some kids. The paint is peeling, there are spaghetti and play-do stains that I cannot remove. There are sticky spots and dents. I refuse to replace it until the boys are older…what’s the point in spending money on another table that they will destroy? We have had lots of meals at this table, with family, with friends, lots of good conversations, laughs, some tears.

Research shows that tables are good for us, it’s good for our hearts and our heads to sit together, to carve out some moments to look at other faces, eat good food and commune.

The table grounds us, draws us all in. We remember, we rejoice at the table.

There has been a lot of table language, table talk, floating around in Christian culture recently. Have you heard it? Books, songs, signs… “all are welcome at the table, come to the table, you have a seat here”….Psalm 23 and Luke 14 discuss table talk…Jesus has prepared a table for us, and all are invited, a banqueting table, a table with a feast.

However, this morning, the lyrics of this song sat with me…the lyrics discussed another table…the table where Jesus sat with his men, and explained the sacrifice he was about to make. 

In Mark 14:12-16 Jesus’s disciples ask him where they should consume the Passover meal. Jesus instructs them to find a certain man who “will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal. They went and found everything just as Jesus had said.”

This upper room, where Christ’s last meal on earth would take place did not even belong to him. It was a borrowed room with a borrowed table from a Jerusalem man. It was beside this borrowed table that Jesus washed feet. It was at this borrowed table that He sat in the presence of his enemy, Judas. It was at this borrowed table that he told of the sacrifice he would make, explained the cup, his blood, and the bread, his body.

The blood was the covenant between God and his people, poured out as a sacrifice for many (Mark 14: 24) the bread, his broken body, given up for us.

Here is where the lyrics got me:

“There’s a table that you’ve prepared for me in the presence of my enemies.

It’s your body and the blood you shed for me.

This is how I fight my battles…”

These lyrics are about  the Passover table, the borrowed table. The last thing Jesus did with his gathered men was to prepare them for their battles.

The table was prepared ahead for them, and he offered his body and his blood. This sacrifice forever defeated death and allows us to fight our battles…

He’s prepared us for the fight…whatever you are battling, he’s gone ahead of you…

He’s goes before us, just as he did these men. The table is ready, all we have to do is show up. His body and blood have been spilled, in the presence of our enemy… and this is how we fight our battles…with the weapons of his sacrifice.

This was a Passover table, a Passover meal, to remember the sacrifice, and he was the ultimate sacrifice.

There is a banquet table in heaven waiting for us, where we rejoice when we see our King again.

But there is a Passover table here, for now, as we battle, as we wait, as we use the power of his death and resurrection to defeat the enemy.

Tables are good for us, it’s good for our hearts and our heads to sit before Him, to carve out some moments to look at His face, eat of His word and commune with Him.

His table grounds us, draws us all in. We remember, we rejoice at His table….

This is how we fight our battles…because of what he offered at the table, his body, his blood, because of what he offered on the cross…