There are some things that just have to be done alone, a lesson I had to learn the hard way as a child. I was a pretty self-sufficient kid and I didn’t require all that much attention; I could sit contentedly for hours just working on or playing with something. But when I wanted attention I made sure I got it. I remember more than once following my mom around the house and her turning to tell me “You can’t come in. Wait here”. I would obediently sit outside the door for her, waiting until she came out again so I could continue following.
There are times in our lives where you have to turn to the people around you and say “You can’t come with me, you have to wait here”.
Community is great and people are absolutely necessary in our lives, but there are times when God calls us to isolation from others and deeper intimacy with him. My favorite example of this is found in Genesis 22, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
“After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.”
Abraham knew what God was telling him to do, though it was going to be a next to impossible task. Can you imagine what that night was like for Abraham? Imagine all of the emotions he went through; I wonder if he slept at all. Regardless of how he was feeling, he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity for obedience. Early in the morning, he left the crowd, taking with him only a couple trusted servants and his son.
For days they walked together. I wonder what they talked about or if they talked much at all. I wonder if Isaac sensed that anything was amiss with his father or if he hung back and talked with the two servants. I’m sure Abraham was tuned in, listening and watching for the Lord to direct him where to go; he was focused on the mission at hand. When they arrived at the mountain, they had to split up, the trusted men had reached the end of the line.
Abraham was left alone and tok his son, his most prized possession, up the mountain to sacrifice. I wonder if Isaac tried to talk with his father or if he stayed silent. Abraham’s heartbeat probably pounded in his ears from the strenuous climb and the fear and emotions associated with what he had been instructed to do. Regardless, Abraham listened and obeyed.
Sometimes, like Abraham, you’re left with just yourself, God, and your worship. The voices of the crowd and even that of some trusted advisors will only go with you so far; there are some places where others just can’t follow.
It’s okay to say “no”.
In our culture, especially our church culture, “no” could easily find a place on the “Unspeakable Words” list. But I feel like this is an area we’ve gotten wrong. Saying “no” is necessary to maintaining your personal health and the health of your relationships, including your relationship with God. I have to say “no” to extra sleep so I can have my quiet time in the morning. I can choose to say “no” to going to eat out and choose to have time to myself to reflect. I have to say “no” to working overtime so that I can take care of the relationships with those closest to me.
Are there some relationships that you need to say “no” to so that you can focus more on the things of God? Is God calling you into a season of isolation where it’s just you and him? Do you need to reallocate your time to worship and way from idle words?
I believe if we learned to say “no” to the good things and “yes” to the God things, our lives could look radically different. I hope and pray that we have the courage to say “no” and teach others to do the same. Abraham said “no” to comfort and the voices of the crowd and said “yes” to God’s voice and ended up experiencing a beautiful miracle of provision. What could our world look like if we had the courage to do the same?