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Learning to say No

November 4, 2009

I’m a people pleaser.  There’s no good way around it.  I don’t like conflict and I like for people to like me.

So when I was approached this summer to be the Spiritual Director for the Walk to Emmaus women’s fall walk, I couldn’t say no.  I just couldn’t.  Even though fall is a tremendously busy time for me.  I have to get ready for all this ordination jazz.  I’ve got kids playing sports.  And it’s smack in the middle of Charge Conference season.  Not to mention that I took my vacation in the summer, then promptly came home and had the flu run through my family, one member at a time.

I love the Walk to Emmaus.  My own call to ministry was affirmed during my walk, and the times I have served as assistant spiritual director have been very, very rewarding.  In particular I love working the women’s walks.  Formation meetings with women are always fun because the women are generally pragmatic, constructively critical and open.  Men’s formation meetings very often involve the men previewing their talks and the other men in the room responding like Hank, Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer.  (“Yep.”  “Yeah.”  “Yup.”  “Yep.”)

But being the SD is a lot of work!  Getting other clergy to join in is difficult, especially when they’ve mastered the art at which I am a novice – saying no.

But I’ve got to learn.  My wife told me, “You ever volunteer to work a walk in the fall again, I’ll kill you.”  And she’s right – Fall is just too busy.  And while Spring walks fall in the middle of my children’s birthday season, Spring is just a better choice for me.

And yet, in spite of all my shortcomings and the naked exposure of my growing edges in this process, the Walk was rewarding and fulfilling.  I made new friends.  I renewed old friendships.  I prayed with new people and with people I hadn’t seen in a very long time.   I saw God at work in the lives of women as plainly as I could see the rainclouds riding on the wind.  I saw a woman engaged deeply in the process of letting go of bitterness she had clung to for nearly twenty years.  I cried silently.  I laughed heartily and deeply.  I smiled to my core.  I missed my wife, my kids, my puppy.  I praised God.

I experienced grace.

And I learned something about myself.  I learned that it is okay to say no when I need to.  I kept my commitment and I was rewarded richly, but I would have been equally blessed had I said no.

Sometimes we have to be reminded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – I want my neighbors to be as blessed as I am.  I want my neighbors to have the same quality healthcare and civil rights that I have.  I want my neighbors to have fewer worries and more joy.  But we also need to be reminded to love ourselves as we love our neighbors.  Just as I don’t want my neighbors to overwork themselves and to take good care of themselves, I should want the same for myself.  I need to be more intentional about self-care.

Little Egypt Walk to Emmaus #38 would have gone on wonderfully without me.  I am grateful that I served.  I am grateful that I said yes.  And I am grateful that I learned the necessity of saying no when I need to.

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