We’ve all had a waitress refill our coffee cup with the line, “Say when,” meaning let me know when to stop pouring. No “when” and we get a lapful of hot coffee, so we learn to say “when.” And I’m slowly learning that “saying when” applies to more than coffee.
The pic above shows our bank, about 25 ft. high and 70 ft. wide, with a steep slope. After renting our house out for six years the previously nice ground cover was almost all gone. No bare dirt because weeds covered it. Tall weeds. It took a lot of work and a lot of full trash bins, but the time arrived to replant. Our key feature was five pygmy date palms, and I thought I could finish the job in one day. So I grabbed my handy mattock, climbed the hill, and began digging in the almost granite-like soil. I’d dug four and started on five when my back said when. It twinged; I took another swing, and it clamped down.
So, I agreed with it, slid down the hill and hobbled into the house to ice it. Four plus holes dug, nothing planted. The next day began with a when, as did the next several. A good chiropractor helped, and I finished the job yesterday, several weeks late, with a total of 12 plants in. Well, two agapanthus plants to still go in, but the holes are dug and ready. 30 minutes left, tops. But I’m learning my limits, when to say when. Earlier I would have pushed through and done damage. But I said when.
Saying when goes beyond coffee and digging holes for pygmy date palms, though, and touches the spiritual life. I encourage you to ponder how these might apply to your life.
Sin. A pastor friend got caught up in online porn and struggled with stopping, until God almost spoke audibly that his ministry would be destroyed. I suspect we all have sinful behaviors and thoughts we need to say when to.
Prayer. For years, Sheila faithfully prayed that her dad would come to know Jesus personally. During one prayer, she received a strong sense of peace that it was OK to stop that prayer. It was time to say when.
Jobs. I realized going to a particular church as pastor would be an “unofficial intentional interim” role. The church needed a lot of structural and leadership changes to be vibrant, and they knew it, but leading in those changes brings some baggage. So we made the changes, but I should have left several years sooner than I did and let another reap the benefits of the changes. Some of us face jobs that don’t match us, that may be toxic, or that we’ve grown beyond, and we need to say when.
Friends. Friendship is a conglomeration of helping and being helped. But some become too toxic and we need to consider that four letter word.
Now comes three sure-fire, fully guaranteed tips on knowing when to say when! OK, they don’t exist. But these four factors can guide us into our prayers and consideration about saying when.
1. Be mindful. Many things come into our lives for a short time, so ponder this. Without it being a hard rule, past experiences can provide some guidance.
2. Pray. God may give you a message, as he did Sheila, or prayer may open up some spiritually discerned common sense.
3. God. Factor in which will bring the most glory to God, which will best help you serve him.
4. Why. Analyze why you would want to keep going in this arena. It may cause to you say when, or to continue to say yes.
Now, an important question. What spiritual growth benefit does knowing when to say when bring? Very simply, we can better move in God’s pace. Our own desires to hang on to actions and attitudes both good and bad can keep us from better steps. When we hold on with a loose grip, we can better respond to God’s urgings. Make sense?
Kick Starting the Application
Do you have some areas where you need to think and pray about saying when? What makes you want to hang on? To let go? In the past, have you held on too long or let go too soon? What does that reveal about you? From surveying your past, what principles can you extract to help saying when now?