This devotional is dedicated to my friend Paige. She’s a huge Beyoncé fan, so I don’t think it’s a stretch that the chorus to Michelle Williams’ “Say Yes” started playing in my mind as soon as I titled this. The other day, Paige sent me an article on Respecting God’s Boundaries and it was, dare I say: lit. Before it, I’d never thought of God’s “no” as something that needed to be respected, rather as something that I could eventually change. Reading the article and subsequently recounting the times God has told me “no” and how different my life would be right now had He said “yes” instead horrified me. I immediately grew a deeper appreciation for His refusal. For starters, I thought about my husband and the seven years of cat and mouse we played before becoming serious, an annoying cycle of pursuit and escape that ultimately defined our relationship by proving our loyalty, confirming the permanence of our attraction to one another, and inspiring our growth as individuals and as a couple. I thank God our indecisiveness and fear of intimacy is no more, but I also thank Him for it. I wouldn’t have been the best partner back then, nor would Nigel have. To that end, God’s “no” was in prevention of destruction. Through our frustration, immaturity, and distractibility, He voiced His disapproval of our then, for the sake of our now.
My second article-related recounting occurred a couple days later – after I submitted the first section of my first academic journal publication for proofreading. Two and two came together while sharing my excitement with a girlfriend. “Anyone can post inspirational quotes on the internet, but not everyone can get an article published in an academic journal,” I texted her, referencing the remorse I’d felt years earlier after putting so much into my inspirational writings only to watch people with less substance and grammatical competence become internet famous for their posts. I shared with her how hurtful the indifferent rejection I experienced back then was and revealed to her that to the old me, a lack of followers and likes felt like an attack on my quality and worth. In hindsight, I recognize that God’s “no” in that situation served as starvation not meant to kill me, but to make my appetite more expensive. Though I’d scroll my timeline puzzled by how nonsensical gaining Instagram celebrity status was, deep down I knew it wasn’t my turn to get off the bus. We hadn’t reached my stop yet. Becoming a household name for something anyone was capable of doing would have decreased my motivation to do more, consequently preventing me from achieving all I am capable of. To that end, God’s “no” was methodical. He strategized my elevation so I wouldn’t lowball myself.
Today, as you contend with patience, pity yourself for not being where you want to be, and call God mean for saying “no,” think about all the trouble His perfect timing has saved you in the past. From experience I know that waiting only seems beneficial after the fact, but from experience I also know how rewarding embraced periods of long-suffering can be. What your aching heart ignores is that the space between your now and your not yet is where your growth happens. Struggle, though harsh, comfortless, and maddening, is truly life changing. Instead of focusing on the negative messages that being “the brokest friend” or the only one in your circle without love speak, hone in on the positive ones. Being in a position to learn from others’ mistakes is often better than being in a position to make your own. Rather than wishing your wait would be over, spend your time being observant and committing yourself to a list of tasks you’d like to complete before it’s over. Compiling an exhaustive register of goals and dedicating your energy toward checking them off one by one will make the time fly by. God isn’t mean for saying “no,” He’s thorough. His decision to make you last to the finish line speaks to His obsession with detail. He wants you to be the best you can be. Better yet, in honor of Paige, let’s shamelessly call back Beyoncé and say: God says “no,” because He wants to make you FLAWLESS! *insert the ‘information desk person emoji’ that black culture has turned into the ‘yaaaasss hunty’ emoji here*