Christian Living

Saying “No” to the Good.

I’ve been sick this week, which means I am further behind on my writing goals and further behind on my other goals and commitments. And the house is a disaster. So as we (hopefully) jump back into our regular schedule, Evan and I have been talking about how to be wise with our time. We’ve also been talking about how to make time for connecting with people–probably because we spent a whole week talking about connection on our podcast, Epic Every Day.

So how do you make time for things?

I’d argue it’s impossible to talk about saying “yes” to thing without talking about saying “no.” In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend talk about how we are all gardens, metaphorically. There are four types of gardens or people: 1) the garden with no walls, 2) the garden with no gate, 3) the garden with a gate that keeps out the good and lets in the bad, and 4) the garden with a gate that lets in the good and keeps out the bad.

For a person with no walls, they don’t have a “no.” They say “yes” to everyone, so anyone can come in and pick the fruit in the garden. This person often doesn’t have any fruit left to feed themselves so they’re starving all the time. They also don’t have time to cultivate the garden so there’s not loads of fruit for those who wander in.

The person who has no gate doesn’t let anyone in at all. They keep their own fruit, but miss out on the joy of relationship. Personally, I believe that results in another kind of starvation.

Then there are the people who have walls with a gate. Some of us are raised in such a way that we don’t know how to keep the bad out or how to let the good in. We don’t know how to let people love us. We don’t think we’re worth protecting so we just let bad people wander in and steal our fruit. We’re the people who automatically assume a criticism is about us (and personal) but can’t accept a compliment to save our lives.

Obviously, the person to be is the one with the last garden. Even if you’re in this place, you’ll have a tendency towards one of the other three–something that you came from or that you can slide back into. People with the last garden believe they’re worth protecting so they keep the bad stuff out of their garden and let the good in. They let themselves be loved and joyfully give to those God has called them to give to.

Our time is an indicator of what kind of person we are. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to be someone who does exactly the things God’s called me to do. I love doing what God’s called me to do because it’s fun and life-giving. It feeds my soul. It creates margin even in the midst of doing it. On the other hand, it’s also hard and takes energy to do.

For me, I don’t usually get sucked into letting the bad in. I used to be there, but I’ve grown past it. I am, however, way, way, way more likely to get sucked into focusing on the good over the best. You know what I mean–when you do something that’s not bad but it’s not the best use of your time? Scrolling through Facebook, extra housecleaning, messing around with my phone, organizing my recipe cards, reading, checking our finances more than once a day, liking people’s posts instead of hanging out with the person in real life… the list goes on and on and on. Some of it is just stuff that is the best when I do it at the right time–for example, we organize our finances and have a money meeting on Fridays, but sometimes I’m tired and avoiding other, harder things so I’ll check just to “categorize the latest receipts” (even when there aren’t receipts). It’s not a bad thing to do, it’s just not the right time to do it.

So often, it’s the good that keeps me from doing the best. I can rationalize the good in order to avoid the work that comes with the best. I might not be as fulfilled as if I engaged in the best, but I don’t have to work up the energy either.

Connection is like that: we’re too busy doing all those “good” things or we’re too busy engaging in the “good” relationships or we don’t have good gates so we let people in who suck us dry. It takes work to say “no” to the good and and to go after the best.

But really, is the “good” good? I mean, if it keeps us from our best, is it good? Or does it become bad?

Blog_ Saying No to the Good


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