Thursday, June 25, 2015

Choosing the Best From So Much Good

“Please confirm that you no longer wish to receive valuable money saving coupons and time saving promotions from our sponsor…”

This was the message I received recently as I sought to unsubscribe to a retailer which had been sending inordinate amounts of email advertisements to my inbox every day. At the end of the school year I had over 3,000 messages piled up from all sorts of good, but unnecessary, places. 

I spent an entire afternoon sorting and deleting, unsubscribing and filtering my email. It was a major task to not only clean it up, but also to change the rules so I can avoid this in the future. 

Yet this message made me sound crazy to want to draw this small boundary to uncomplicate my life.

The message itself belies a problem that lurks deep in the root of our culture today. We do not support and facilitate the setting of healthy boundaries.

My no becomes persuaded, cajoled, and tempted until it is a flagging and reluctant, guilt-ridden, what-if-I-miss-out yes. 

And something else is lost in its place. Something else must always move over when we say yes, even to good stuff.

Evenings catching fireflies with my daughter get bumped by the yes I said to the committee meeting. Afternoons at the lake fishing and swimming as a family get usurped by the yes I said to three children in three different team sports. That long chat with an elderly friend where I learn that she was once a concert pianist gets skipped because I said yes to too much time on my social media reading about other people's problems.

There are so many good things to do out there. Who doesn't want to "receive valuable money saving coupons and time saving promotions"? What if we decide that instead of the coupons and promotions we will just wear last year's shorts and swimsuit one more season and forego the shopping all together? To make room for something else that is the best?

I remember when I was a young college student, driven to perfectionism and trying to please the world and God. One day I was (loudly) bemoaning the fact that I was overwhelmed and pressured on all sides, all by very good choices which waved their hands to me like impatient school children in the classroom of life.

My mentor at that time said to me quietly, "Danetta, when someone asks you to do something good, answer them that you will get back to them. Then pray about it, think about it, evaluate if it will bring worth to you and others to do it." 

She wants me to wait before I answer? I thought to myself. What if no one likes me anymore? What if God is not pleased with me? From my rejection background, yes had become an easy path to acceptance from people and from God.

Well, I'm quite a bit older and wiser now. (Oh how I wish I could mentor my 19-year-old self sometimes!) I have learned several benefits about saying no to the good in order to choose the best.

The world does not stop spinning if I wait a bit before committing.

This was a bit of shocker to me, I must admit. I was surprised when I learned that I and my decisions did not actually make the world go round. And by waiting, I actually had a clearer head to make a wiser decision anyway. Often while we wait, even for a few hours, more facts and information become clear and change the weight of the option being considered.

I will disappoint people with my no, but I will refresh myself and my family when I stand by it.

Healthy relationships understand that we all disappoint each other. But most people respect one who knows her own healthy boundaries, even if the no was a disappointment. By risking disappointment with others, we are inviting refreshment within ourselves and our closest relationships as we leave room for the best things.

God is pleased with me because of His Son Jesus, not because of what I do for Him.

We are not made acceptable to God by our good deeds, or how busy we are, or how much we are serving. Jesus is who made us right before God, and we can't do a single thing to make God approve of us more. We can, however, make choices with our yes and no that make more time to know God's great love for us.

I will notice more often the sweet moments of peace and joy in life when I am not rushing around doing so many good things that are not the best things.

It has always annoyed me a bit that my sons and husband insist I cut their hair instead of going to a barber. I am usually rushing around with a million things to do when that familiar request comes, "I need a haircut!" 

But it has been during those sweet moments with their messy wet hair, scissors snipping away, that we have had some of our most meaningful conversations. I am so glad I have said yes to them and no to whatever other thing I thought was more important at the time.

My relationships will actually improve.

My African friends taught me to take time with people. When we sit down and take a proper look at each other, listening and sharing life, life itself becomes rich. We aren’t alone anymore. We give care and receive care in times of need. And isn’t that what we are longing for? 

Boundaries in our time and energy allow us to spend more time with people, and to grow deeper in relationships with them.

The work I do accomplish is actually of a higher quality when I have said no to the clamor and yes to the best.

We all know the satisfaction that comes from having the freedom to work on a task with full focus and attention. Reducing the commitment clutter from life facilitates better work in life's yes’s.

I will know deeper peace with God and learn His will for my life.

When we wait and carefully consider our options before committing, we place our souls in a posture of listening before God for His best for our lives.

Others need my example; in fact, in secret they are wishing someone would stand up and just set a boundary.

Have you ever met a woman who knows her limits? She can be annoying, can’t she? Surrounded by mystery, she somehow knows how to manage her life, exposing our own overcommitment and exhaustion. Inside we want to be like her, we want to learn the secret of healthy boundaries. When you learn to choose the best from all the good, you are leading someone else to health too.

You and I were made for a purpose and God has set aside for us each a portion. 

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. -Psalm 16:5-7

Let’s take some time today to evaluate our commitments. Pause and pray for God to show you your assigned portion. The sure sign of healthy commitment to the best things is the joy and delight that comes from boundaries set in pleasant places. If you are unsure, wait and pray it out. The good news is that you cannot get in the way of God's best for you by waiting on His counsel, delaying your yes.

We can confidently let our yes be yes, and our no be no while we watch life within our healthy boundaries flourish.

How have you managed to choose the best? Be sure to leave your insights on choosing the best from the good in the comments section below! 


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