Thankful for the “No’s”

As a basketball fan, I’m always interested in the time after the season when both the draft and free agency take place.

It’s a time when teams and players retool in order to, hopefully, become more competitive.

During this time, a lot of trades take place, which means players find themselves sent to play for another team. I imagine this might be exciting for a few players, but more likely, being traded probably feels to most like the rug has being pulled out from under them.

Back in February, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies knew his team was talking to other teams about trading him. And Gasol pleaded with his team not to make such a transaction. Gasol had spent 11 years in Memphis, the only city/team he’d ever played for. In his mind, Memphis was where he knew he wanted to be.

Yet, despite his plea, Marc Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors for a bevy of players and draft picks.

He’d asked to stay and the Memphis Grizzlies said no.

Fast forward to yesterday and the headlines splashed across a multitude of sports-oriented websites:

  • Marc Gasol Glad Grizzlies Didn’t Listen To Him In Trade With Raptors
  • Marc Gasol: I Wanted To Stay With The Grizzlies, Thank God They Ignored Me
  • Marc Gasol Is Grateful The Grizzlies Ignored His Desire To Stay In Memphis

Why had Marc Gasol changed his tune about the trade that sent him from Memphis to Toronto?

Because Marc Gasol attained something in Toronto he couldn’t get hold of in Memphis: an NBA championship.

That chance to experience the very pinnacle of NBA victory turned what, and one time, seemed like a sure negative into a very strong positive.

In life, we sometimes hear “no.” And in most cases, I imagine, we don’t like it. Typically, we find the “no” keeps us from what we feel we want or need.

But many “no’s” are actually doorways to something better.

I’ve often had God give me a solid, clear “no” and I responded by wondering if He really knew what He was talking about. Because I felt I knew what was right for me, I questioned whether God was dropping the ball in to giving me “yes.”

But God isn’t the God of arbitrary “no’s.” God is always working things out according to His plan and acting with our best interests in mind.

Perhaps in what could be the biggest “no” in history, the Father told the Son “no” when Jesus asked if the cup of the cross could be taken from Him.

At first glance, the Father’s response seems cold and cruel. Why wouldn’t he rescue Jesus from a death He didn’t deserve?

And yet, out of this “no” came the means for the rescue for humanity.

Sometimes a “no” is the best thing we can every hear. But to understand the purpose behind the “no” means we will have to be humble, submissive and perceptive. Too often, because we don’t want to accept a “no,” we blow a perfectly good opportunity to understand how God’s hand is moving behind the scenes.

Minda Zetlin, in an online article called “FOUR REASONS YOU SHOULD LOVE HEARING NO” offers these four points for people to no always look at a “no” as a negative:

  1. Learn to celebrate your ‘no’s” – If yes makes you happy and no makes you unhappy, you need to get off the yes/no emotional roller-coaster. When you look at no positively, you can see the value in it, celebrate it and have fun.
  2. No doesn’t always mean never – No often means not yet. It often boils down to a matter of timing. Patience and diligence can often give greater results than we can imagine.
  3. A good no is better than a bad yes – This is a very hard thing to wrap our minds around! But, if you’ve embraced the concept that a no isn’t particularly bad news, you can go forward with confidence.
  4. Every no is a chance to learn – Within every no is the information needed to move forward. We just have to be brave enough to pursue what it is we need to learn in order to grow.

One last thought: God’s “no” to our prayers and requests will always be a “yes” to whatever He is seeking to work in our lives. We can choose to cling to Him (even when His “no” is disconcerting for us), believing that He loves us, hears us, and is always at work. Just because God tells us “no” does not mean that He isn’t fully for us. Quite the opposite!


To Know and Be Known

The other day I pulled up to a stoplight. At the same time, two cars (one on my right, the other on my left) pulled up beside me.

Immediately, the drivers of both cars pulled out their cellphones and began fervently looking and poking at their devices.

At that moment, I wondered in my mind: What was so important that, while sitting a few moments at a signal, they both felt the need to check their phones?

I mean, to look at a phone while on the road (even when stopped at a signal) takes away from a driver’s awareness of all that is happening around them. I was sure one of these drivers would miss when the light turned green. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened!

But back to my question: what is it that drives people to their phones so much? I concluded that the primary reasons are (1) the desire to know and (2) the desire to be known. Either people are looking up information to absorb or they are connecting with someone in online conversation.

Think about it: aren’t knowing and being known two of our greatest needs?

Down deep inside of us, we have questions about life, death, eternity, purpose and meaning.

We wonder within our mind: Who am I? How did I get here? Why am I here? What’s it all about? Is there any rhyme or reason to the universe in which we dwell? What lies beyond the grave?

God has answers (found in His Word) to each one of those queries.

That’s the knowing side of things.

When it comes to being known, it’s amazing how much we would like to truly be loved and understood by someone else. To have someone to share our thoughts, ideas and dreams. Someone to accept us.

How many of us possess a desperate desire to drop the masks we often employ to keep people from judging or rejecting us?

While we may seek to find a sense of knowing and being known in the world around us, I believe that to truly experience these things we must look to God.

God has the answers to our most pressing questions.

And He also is able to love, know and accept us like no human being can.

J.I. Packer wrote these insightful words about the nature of God’s knowledge of us:

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

Yes, we can (to a degree) find significance in our human relationships. We can learn from each other, as well as find closeness and kinship.

But to really know and be known, we must go farther. We must engage God.

John Piper wrote about how well God can both inform us and know us (along with offering us a reminder of how difficult is to know ourselves):

You always have someone to go to for help in knowing who you are. You know one of the great longings of the human soul is to understand ourselves. Who are we? What is our nature? What sort of being am I? What is my deepest thought and feeling? What are my true and deepest motives? What are the relationships, deep inside of me, between my knowing and my feeling and my willing and my doing? If you think you know yourself, you are really deluded. You are so complex. You are so multilayered.

The desire to know and be known is universal. But the source from which we can experience the greatest depth of knowing and being known is singular.

The source of such understanding and deep relationship is the God who formed the magnificent universe, as well as the magnificent you.

Anything else will fall short.