Over the past year, give or take, I’ve written about learning the lesson of saying, “no”. It hasn’t been the easiest lesson for me. There have been a number of times, one very recently, when I’ve had to say “no” because I knew that “no” was best and right for my family even while a huge part of me was tempted to say “Absolutely, yes!”. This particular opportunity has crossed my path more than once in the past couple of years, and had it been presented to me 10 years ago, I would’ve snatched it up. What I didn’t know then (hindsight and all that) was that I would’ve had to quickly do a complete 180 and walk away from that opportunity when Anna’s adoption was complete.
I feel like I’ve moved into a season where God is making me take on the “no” answers for myself rather than just removing the opportunities altogether. And y’all, that’s hard because it’s a level of maturity and adulting, if you’ll forgive me using that term, that I wasn’t quite sure I was prepared for. You know, most of us would prefer to hide behind our parent and let them do the heavy lifting, so to speak, but there comes a time when children have to be pushed to be independent and confident in who they are and where they’re called to be. And being completely honest, the sense of relief and peace that came with that “no” answer was and is confirmation that I’m doing what is right.
Of course, being me, lover of words, I had to use all the words ever created to just say no. I have a friend that tells me, “No is a complete sentence,” and I’m really trying to grasp that concept. But throughout my rather lengthy and apologetic explanation, I kept saying, “It’s just not the right time.” Which is completely true, it is absolutely not “the right time”. What I didn’t expect, but what I’ve realized, as I’ve continued to pray and ponder on this particular situation, that I was certain was not an if but when situation, is that the “right time” may never come. I don’t know for certain (but I do have a strong feeling regarding this) because sometimes, pretty much all the time, God doesn’t tell us all His plans for us for our entire lifetime, and we have to trust Him to reveal what needs to be revealed at the exact right moment. No surprise, my plans and His plans rarely match exactly, but His are always far better.
Enter Isaiah 55:8, ” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD.”
All that to circle back to . . . words. I’ve been known to talk too much. I often write too much. I frequently explain too much. Especially, when giving a “no” answer. I know it’s shocking given the three paragraphs it took for me to actually get to this point. But that is the second part of the saying no lesson that I’m now learning. Sometimes, in life, brevity is the wisest choice, and other times you just need to keep your mouth shut (or in this case your fingers off the keyboard) completely.
This past week, I was presented with a totally different “opportunity” to explain myself. Opportunity in quotations because the events that led up to this point were events I had to deal with but would’ve rather not. In the interest of privacy this will be vague, but incredibly long story short, I had to moderate some drama, poor word choice, but I’m grasping for something better, which (1) wasn’t my issue to begin with but I had no other option and (2) drama is not my cup of tea. At the end of the day, I was also forced to make a couple hard decisions. A few days later, I was presented with the “opportunity” to explain myself, and I’ll tell y’all, these fingers were itching to type all. the. things. But the Holy Spirit, as He so frequently does and has no issue doing, said in that still small voice that whispers to your heart, “Nope. Keep your mouth closed and your fingers off those keys.” I struggled, oh how I struggled, and this is just one of quite a few times, He’s told me to keep quiet here recently. The word ignore, is not in my vocabulary, and every time I have to stay quiet, I legitimately think I might die a million times over by not saying anything.
But then I was brought back to Jesus with the woman caught in adultery.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
When the scribes came to Jesus, ready to stone the woman caught in her sin, they weren’t wrong. The law gave them every justification for their actions. But Jesus didn’t engage. He refused to talk to them about her but instead, stooped down and started writing in the dirt. There’s a ton of speculation as to what He was writing. Truth is, no one really knows, but what is very clear, is that He ignored them. He actually acted as if He didn’t hear them.
When they continued to press Him, Jesus answered them with the briefest of answers, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Then He went right back to writing in the dirt. And they all just wandered away feeling guilty of their own misdeeds, but also, I’m sure, thinking, as we’re all prone to do when not privy to the entire conversation or situation, “Well Jesus just gave her a free pass.” But He didn’t. He absolutely addressed the situation with her, but He did it privately and with discretion, and I have no doubt, at the prompting and leading of His Father.
And that’s the lesson I’ve taken away from this. There’s “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b) , and both are best done at the directing of the Holy Spirit. I’m certainly not Jesus . . . not news to anyone, but I serve Him and follow Him. I’m learning, albeit slowly at times, that taking the time to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, to look before leaping, is never a bad idea. Just because I’m justified in saying or doing something, doesn’t mean I should. Likewise, I’m absolutely certain that there are times when that same still small voice tells me I need to speak up, and in those moments when I’m likely just as justified in staying quiet and doing nothing, far more is accomplished in acting in and speaking the truth with love and grace than maintaining silence. The key is not in speaking or not speaking, in acting or not acting, but in listening and following the guidance of the ONE I serve. And if I’m doing that, I owe no one else an explanation.
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