Have you ever said no to something when you really wanted to say yes?
I said a hard no this month. There was a new opportunity I really wanted to pursue, and I desperately wanted to say yes. It was something I love doing, something I could justify spending time on, something that would benefit me and others. It had the potential to build my confidence, putting me in a role where my gifts and personality would thrive.
But there was a cost—a high cost to be paid with my time. Doing this new thing would fill up my schedule and my mental space, requiring lots of attention and energy, especially as I learned the role. It would leave no room for the other things I want to pursue, the things that make me my truest self.
Saying yes to that thing would mean saying no to anything else that comes along. I knew I had to choose between something good now or the possibility of something better down the road. As appealing as the opportunity was, I’m just not ready to say no to what may be waiting right around the corner.
Holding space for the unknown may be one of the hardest things for me to do.
My husband and I are planning a much-anticipated vacation together this summer to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Spending multiple nights in a tropical location without kids? Yes, please. It feels easy for me to keep that week free from appointments and commitments, because time alone with my husband is a rare and precious gift. Why would I say yes to anything else when a romantic getaway awaits?
When I’m deciding between doing something good now and waiting for something better later, holding out for the better thing is a clear choice. But the choice doesn’t seem as clear when the future is unknown.
My soul feels restless. I don’t think it’s the snow, although being stuck inside with my kids for multiple consecutive weeks because it’s too cold to get fresh air is enough to make a person batty. It’s more than just cabin fever—something is stirring deeper inside me. There is this longing, an ache to reach beyond my current reality and fulfill my purpose in the world.
My mind spins most days, dreaming about this cause or that purpose, a new organization I want to support, another need in the world or my community that stirs my heart. I’ve learned not to move forward with every passion-filled impulse that crosses my heart—I would exhaust myself in a second and be unable to sustain enough commitment to make any difference if I said yes to every opportunity.
I’ve said my fair share of yesses born out of impatience and paid the price. This time I’m mustering every morsel of self-control to wait for the opportunity that makes my heart come alive, where the cost is absorbed by the joy of knowing the timing and opportunity are right.
“What purpose does restlessness serve?” someone asked me, as I shared my struggle. I paused, pondering the implications of the question.
“I guess it could go two ways,” I answered. “Sometimes feeling restless motivates me toward action, nudging me toward change.” I paused. “But sometimes it just steals my peace and contentment with my present life.” I considered my words, filtering through examples of how this has played out in recent days.
“Yes,” he agreed. “Restlessness can facilitate change on the inside or the outside.” Hmm. And I had assumed it was a sign something was wrong. Could my desire for change be the catalyst I need to do the hard work growth requires? Could restlessness be my motivation to get myself ready for the next opportunity that comes?
As much as I love to dream about the future, maybe my restless heart just needs to be rooted today in the place where I’m currently planted. Maybe the process of growing deep roots really serves to protect me from blowing away in the winds of change when they come. Maybe I need to spend less time longing for something different and more energy investing where I know I’m called today.
Can I confess that the thing I so desperately wanted to say yes to involved teaching an exercise class? As closing this door forced me to find another way to strengthen my body, I’m already discovering the beauty of choosing what’s best over what’s good. Saying no has birthed greater motivation and joy in exercising alone at home than I’ve ever experienced. It’s also given me more time to pray and prepare and dream about what’s next—all because I chose to hold space for a better yes.
Hard as it is, I choose to wait on my unknown future. I don’t simply want to fill my time, which is the surest way to an empty soul—I want to fill my heart to overflowing. As St. Augustine wisely observed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” May God give me the grace to hold still long enough to let His love pour in.
Photo credit for featured image: Caroline Knott