I don't like hearing the word, "no."
Recently, my son has heard it quite frequently, and he loves to walk around the house chastising random objects and his baby sister, "no-no... no-no... no-no..." I have no idea what his tennis shoes did to warrant his stern rebukes, but they are frequently corrected.
Because I don't like hearing the word "no," I rarely say it to my favorite person: myself.
Sugar-coat it any way you want to, the most important person in my life is myself. How do I know? Because it hurts when I have to get up for a 4 a.m. feeding, when I have to wash smelly yard-work shirts, and when I am cleaning up a dripping sippy cup for the one hundredth time... If I truly loved my family more than myself, these moments wouldn't hurt. Do I love my family? Of course. I would suffer any terror to keep them safe and happy. But I love myself more.
My guess is you love yourself the most, too.
Why else would God have to say, "Love me, love others"? If it was natural for us to love others, if it was normal for us to love God, He wouldn't have needed to spell it out so clearly.
Last week I did something unusual.
For an entire day, I told myself "no."
It's amazing how delicious soggy cheerios start to look...
And somewhere in the middle of that day of "no," I realized something.
I don't do this often, if ever. I don't tell myself "no."
I eat what I want, watch what I want, do with my day what I want. I never just tell myself "no" for the sake of saying "no." I never say "no" for the sake of training myself that there are more important things than gratifying my desires.
I'm not on this earth for me. I've been specifically designed, chosen, created to bring glory to someone else. My body, my personality, my time... it's not for me.
Paul wrote: "But I discipline my body and keep it under control." (I Cor. 9:27) The Greek in this passage could be literally translated, "I pummel my body and make it a slave."
Pummel. Strike repeatedly. Batter. Pound. Beat. Over and over.
When was the last time you did this?
Before you get all defensive and horrified, Paul wasn't advocating self-abuse. So, don't, in your zeal to obey, go searching for a whip or boxing gloves. Don't write me off because I sound like some sadist. Paul isn't talking about bodily beating. But he is talking about bodily self-control. As he urges us to live with purpose, he compares our lives to athletes: "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things."
Somewhere in the middle of my "day of "no,"" I found peace... God fills up the spaces that we shovel stuff out of. Crying out to God to be enough? That's precious. Craving satiation from Him, rather than from my delicious peanut-butter banana snack? He satisfies that craving.
"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
So, when was the last time you told yourself "no"?
Not because you had to. Not because it was necessary. Not because people would think you were weird if you didn't. When was the last time you said "no" because you are in training?
I'm in a period of intentional "no." Most of my "no" centers around food right now. That's just the battle front which is getting the most attention. But I'm also trying to sacrifice sleep (so I can have a longer time with my Savior in the morning). Sleeplessness is sweet when I'm telling Christ that He is all I need. I don't need eight hours, uninterrupted to be sweet and kind to others. I need Christ.
There are a myriad of ways to fast, to tell yourself "no." Can I leave you with a few? And can I be a gentle push towards your own day (or week, or month!) of "no"? Please consider... I promise, God loves it when we say "no" to ourselves.