Caleb, no you may not climb into the refrigerator. Caleb, no you may not hit your sister with the sword. Caleb, no you may not ride the dog like a horse. Caleb, I said no. I said no. Caleb. I. Said. No.
I once asked my son if he thought his middle name was No. My daughter, I’m sure, can relate to her brother. Her name can often be read, Ella Not Now.
I say no to my children. A lot. The word no elicits a great deal of anger out of my little ones. It is a word they don’t like to hear. They stomp their feet. They pitch their fits. They cry their hot tears.
If I’m honest, it’s a word I don’t like either. And I hear it spoken more often than I want. No is shouted over the waves of tragedy. No is written on the walls of change I crave. No is whispered within my heart by the Holy Spirit.
And I lay on the floor, kicking and screaming. Crying my hot tears.
My mind can wrap itself around some no’s. I tell my children no to keep them wrapped in a cocoon of safety. I deny their wants because I see the larger picture—the down-the-road mistake of saying yes. No is their middle name when instruction is the goal.
But there are some no’s I still struggle to grasp. God, heal my friend’s daddy? God, can you please, oh please, put an end to sex trafficking? Aids? Childhood hunger? God, can you keep my family safe? Forever?
I get the theological answers. I do. The reasons for no when I just don’t want to even try and understand. Because when the deep-thinking-theology is stripped away, I am left with an answer good enough for my questions. He is God. I am not.
Maybe it’s oversimplified. It is. Millions would believe me to be naive, ignorant. I’m not. Trusting the no, even when it makes no earthly sense, is part of the trusting Jesus.
And it’s not easy. This faith by belief. This sometimes-I’m-like-Thomas-and-need-to-feel-the-nail-scarred-hands faith that is just. so. hard.
But I must trust the no. Because in the no, I feel insanely connected to my Jesus. My crucified Christ. My Savior, who in complete humanity, cried out to God, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36
He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Praying. Anguish so intense blood dripped from His pores. Preparing His heart for the gruesome death He would endure. The black sin He would heap upon His soul. For me. For you.
And yet He asked the Father. Please, Daddy. I know you can do anything. Anything. But this plan? This is a trial I don’t want to endure. But Daddy, I will walk this road if it is your will. What you want. Because I trust your will.
The Father said no to His Son. Because he said yes to you and me. And oh, how grateful the woman is that God answered the way He did. How often have I prayed, Take this cup away from me? From those I love.
But if God can tell his Son no to save the world, how can I question His no when so much less is at stake?
And now I understand. When I’m asked to hold the cup, God holds me. My Daddy God takes me in His arms, tears in His eyes, and holds me. He doesn’t always shield me from pain. And He doesn’t always shield the world from tragedy.
My trust is that He will hold me—cradle me. This is my faith that can move mountains. God. Will. Hold. Me.
In the same way, I gather the two pieces of my heart, son and daughter, into my arms. They don’t understand my reasons for no, but they don’t need to comprehend. They are tucked in close. Held tight. They know I will never let go.