Options, Sabbath, and Saying NO

The more I work with students the more overwhelmed I become at the number of options they have to choose from. Literally, everything (class, living situations, activities, what to eat for dinner) is a decision from among multiple options.

Most students don’t struggle with filling up their schedules, they struggle with saying yes and no to the right things.

If I’m being honest, I have the same struggle. Amy and I could be involved in a churchy opportunity (to quote Nacho Libre) every day and/or night of the week (and some weeks we are).

The question is almost never one of finding a good options, it’s trying to figure out, to discern, what is the best option. Many of us solve this problem by saying yes to everything.

Or maybe (if it’s a Facebook event). We all struggle with saying no. Maybe that’s why Jesus said this.

Saying no is important, even vital, for life.


My friend has been telling about his teenage daughter and the struggle with being “on” all the time. Thanks to phones, Facebook, etc the only time she is ever “off” is when she is asleep.

As a result, the burden of carrying a constant emotional weight can be crushing. They’ve instituted a “no-phone-or-computer-after-8-pm” policy (it’s voluntary but appreciated). I’m trying to do a similar thing. It’s hard.

But it’s a no that opens up the possibility of saying yes to some really good things.


Sabbath is a Christian practice in saying yes and no. Often, though, it is framed as saying no to work.

It’s more layered than that, though. It’s saying no to finding our identity in work, in production, in achievement, in connection. Walking away from work (or the phone, or the blog, or the inbox) for a time frees us from slavery to those things.

Which is beautiful. But even one more layer down, it is a reminder that the world goes round without me pushing it. People will be ok without me. God is in control.


I stink at saying no. I would much rather just say yes to everything. Have all the experiences I can have. Keep everyone happy. Not miss out on anything.

But I distort my own importance and tell myself (and others) that the world revolves around me if I don’t say no, even to good things.

What do you need to say no to?

“Busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal…not of devotion but of defection.” – Eugene Peterson

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