“There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.” Saul Below, The Living Novel: A Symposium, 1957
I think no matter who you are, no matter how you grew up, every Christian writer struggles to say no to others.
Some may learn to say “no” readily. But many writers start out avoiding saying no to people at any cost. We’re avoiders and pleasers. We may say “yes” initially only to avoid the inevitable confrontation, then say “no” later by avoiding the situation.
I’ve done it regularly. Habitually. And I’ve seen it done for years.
But everyone who writes has a unique call and so must rise above this.
And in my experience with Christians, we rarely, if ever, acknowledge the essential importance of saying no.
Oh, we say no to sin. And to anything deemed “questionable” or unsafe. But to other Christians? To the church or (God forbid) the leadership? That might not reflect well on our presumed holiness.
Churches don’t give out gold stars for saying no.
People who don’t go to church can get away with it. Some may have first found permission by leaving. Yet how many are saying no to the wrong things or in unloving ways?
The point is, we need to learn how to say “no” well, and our model human opposed both the typical Christian and the disengaged and hardened folks alike.
He said a lot of loving no’s to people. And often.
He said no—in love—to strangers, friends, crowds, the disciples and Pharisees—in other words, to everyone.
Why is this so important? Because unless you can say no in love, even well-meaning Christians can create barriers between you and God’s will.
Saying yes means nothing unless you can also say no. Only “no” can correct and refocus people when they’ve gotten off track. Only “no” can move the attention away from its wrong focus. And only a loving heart can use no to affirm the goodness and love inside the opposition.
Unfortunately, “no” seems so ignored among Christians today that most can’t handle the slightest hint or whisper of it. Now we have to treat adults as children and instead of “no,” offer a firm “thank you for understanding why I can’t serve at that event,” or “God bless your commitment. I’m already giving elsewhere. I appreciate your graciousness.”
If only that was acceptable.
Years ago, I set out to help Christian writers say “no” to the forces that opposed their higher purpose. I thought I’d be fighting the godless consumer culture. Instead, I’ve found the greatest opposition can come not from culture but from the church.
If you’ve had trouble saying no, you’re not alone. And you need to get alone to yourself for at least 30 minutes. Take a notebook and pen and go imagine your future 10 years from now if you can commit to the vision God put in your heart for you to write. Write down what you see.
Imagine it and then believe that one day soon, that will be you, successful.
That is who you are going to be.
Circumstances do not dictate this. People do not dictate you.
God is vision-caster, the Great Imaginer, and when He gives his called artists a vision, He’s saying that one day, it will be your day. But if you never commit to it, and especially to saying “no” to the ungodly demands, expectations, unspoken rules and implicit requirements placed on you by a restrictive church or family or culture, it will never be your day.
We can’t sacrifice our God-given vision for a person or an image or a church. We must use our gifts for the Person and His image and the Church at large.
If you’ve failed to say no in the past, repent and move forward. Claim your gifted strength and know that every failure along the way is one less you have to make now.
Mistakes are necessary; they’re how we learn to value what we eventually gain.
But we’ll never get to where He’s called us to go without imagination and belief.
If you will go and write the vision, you will see where you will be. And you will know you can not quit.
You have to go get it.
So decide to believe. And He goes with you. And there is no fear because fear is not real. Fear is choosing to respect doubts as greater than the future reality. It’s believing things that are not or may never be true are true. That’s insanity. Fear is a choice; we can chose not to fear.
You can simply choose instead to believe the real vision. Choose it and own it.
As Tozer said, there is blessedness in possessing nothing. Yet a vision is a pure gift, and possibly for artists, our primary possession. You can have this vision if you have focus. And you will have it if you don’t quit.
But the first step before anyone else will believe this vision is you believing it.
So all that matters is, can you say “no” to say “yes” to your vision?