Andre has been learning and speaking a few words and presently his favorite word is Noooo! This is not surprising because we, his parents, have been using this word more frequently as well. Although Andre is now audibly saying No, I have been hearing him say this word – since the day he arrived. When I really wanted a full night of sleep, he said no. When Lori wanted to sleep in on Saturday mornings, he said no! When we would have enjoyed staying out late with friends or spontaneously dashing off to this or that, Andre said No.
Now his needs for nurturing and socializing are only increasing. For me, an uninterrupted three hours of house project work is now a distant memory. Our persistently messy home takes time away from Lori’s agenda. Both of us wouldn’t mind 5 minutes of non-stop conversation between us at the dinner table, but Andre says Noooo! Whole evenings filled with book reading, computer work and documentaries are unattainable because now Andre says; “No Dad, your time is not all your own. I’m here now, and I need you to lay those things down and make me a priority.” This situation presents a choice. Do I fill the next minutes or hours with only me or with the both of us? Compared to the past when this choice was less frequent or less consequential, I’ll admit that sometimes it feels like less time for my agenda equals less living.
But then I remember that Jesus faced this scenario as well. Although He did not live or teach a message of zero time for oneself, the dominant theme of His ministry was laying oneself down for the uplifting of others. Matthew’s gospel records Jesus telling his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” A supporting idea is expressed by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians when he says, “No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends.”
Jesus desires us to be a river of living water that refreshes others, and that does not happen unless we take “our” time and offer it to another. The listening, the interaction, the touching, the conversing and the giving that comprise tangible love, all take time. This love requires me to deny myself the time it will take to fulfill a personal desire and give that time to others around me – especially the neediest, like Andre. And when I say yes, the gratification may not be instant, but Andre’s Nooo’s lead us both into times where better living and good memories can develop. Instead of that time being filled with just me, it has now been filled with the interaction, learning and memory making of two people or more. As a minister of God’s patient nurturing, Andre’s Nooo’s encourage me to say Yes to living more with less time for self-centered pursuits.
(Post inspired by the book More Living with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. This post was also delivered at our Pilgrims Mennonite small group Sunday morning service.)