In The No


“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;

but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Hebrews 12:9-11 (NIV)


When our boys were young they slowly morphed into teenagers, slipping into an unrelatable realm, at least for me. (I had never been a teenage boy.) The early years were easy in comparison. Over time, lack of sleep from midnight feedings turned into waiting up for my teenagers until I heard the crunch of tires on gravel. Parenthood evolved. One moment I was changing diapers and the next juggling issues like sex and alcohol. It became risky. I loved them, even when their attitudes were unattractive, but my love was sometimes expressed in ways that seemed harsh because I said “no” and wouldn’t give them what they wanted.

Still, this powerful, two-letter word, N-O, gets between us and the things we want too. Like you, God loves his children and gives them good gifts, but He doesn’t always give us what we want. In fact, He often keeps us from things we think we’ll enjoy. Even though we know God is the ultimate Father, a God who loves through all circumstances as we grow, there is still this parent-child conflict that occurs in our hearts. Fortunately, God isn’t confused or frustrated at our rebellion or poor choices. However, He is grieved for us when we challenge His “no” because it reveals a darker truth…we don’t trust Him.

Unfortunately, modeling my parenting after God wasn’t always easy. I wavered between being too strict and enabling bad behavior.  I often tell of one situation that happened during our son’s Senior year of high school. After Prom ended he and his girlfriend came to our house to watch a movie.  When the movie was over he came to me and asked, “Mom, would it be okay if she stayed the night?”

Surprised by the question I said, “No. She needs to go home.”

“But it’s really late and her mom said it was okay,” he argued respectfully.

Frustrated, I responded, “I’m not sure why her mother would allow it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not okay. She needs to go home.”

“Why not? We’re not going to do anything?” he pleaded with a half smile, trying to wear me down.

Then inspiration hit. I asked, “If she were your daughter would you let her stay the night at her boyfriend’s house after prom?”

His quick answer surprised me, “No!”

“Then why are we having this conversation?” I asked victoriously.

Defeated, he turned and sauntered to the couch. Thinking it was settled I went back to reading my book. However, a half-hour later his girlfriend was still there. I marched over to them and found they were dozing off! Shaking him awake, I once again told him to take her home.

“We’re tired,” he growled.

“I don’t care if you’re tired,” I said angrily.  “Either you take her home, or I will!” Outwardly I was stern but inwardly battling with doubt. Am I being silly? Will he hate me? I asked myself questions like these even though I knew the truth. My actions reflected the right thing for my son, but my attitude was as gentle as a charging bull. I was angry and determined.  I was “right.”

“You’re not taking my girlfriend home! I’ll take her,” He announced, like he was the parent. Then, he took her home.

Although the outcome was good the circumstance took me off guard. I didn’t give in, but I certainly wasn’t bearing the fruit of the Spirit during our interaction! However, the possible consequences were not worth the risk. I knew if I let this go without exercising my authority as my child’s protector against “things he thinks he’ll enjoy” then I was enabling him in his destruction. My job was not to make my children comfortable or to make them happy. My job was to mold them into Godly adults--to make them set apart for God and to demonstrate His love for them the way God does for me.

Admittedly, I have failed to exercise my authority with grace in many circumstances (this being one of them). At times I did allow my son to get away with something toxic to his soul because I wanted him to like me. It didn’t work. It backfired, creating more conflict. He didn’t respect me. It wasn’t until he moved out that I realized how inconsistent I had been. (The “yo-yo” mom does not work on a child who knows how to “walk-the-dog!”) Even when I did do the right thing I often did it with the wrong motives. Instead of loving him too much to allow him to do something destructive I said no because I was trying to rescue him from experiencing pain (because it was too painful for me).

Thankfully, parents are covered by God’s grace too. Now, instead of losing sleep over my failures I bring them before God and ask Him to redeem the wounded places in the hearts of my children, fulfilling the needs I failed to meet. I seek my perfect Father and ask Him to set loving boundaries for my grown children that draw them to Himself. Now that my role has changed I feel a freedom to express favor like I would to a friend. Advice does not pass my lips unsolicited, but I am available to talk. I love showering them with good gifts and spending time with them. And, by the grace of God, they are respectful, loving, fun, grateful young men who know the LORD. Having said that, I am anticipating future flops. I am not expecting, from this day forward, to be the perfect mother, grandma or mother-in-law. But, by His authority, I will choose to walk by faith in the “no.”


"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal."

Job 5:17-18 (NIV)


Written by Marlene McKenna.