Already Included #64 – On Hold

By: Sarah Nyhan

Control issues gone awry. Sometimes you are a person who, justly or even not, feels the need to prove a point. Probably to others. Who maybe don’t care or more likely are also probably successfully maintaining much control by playing the game of refusing to acknowledge the point to you despite all evidence and all your attempts.

What we feed grows. What might have been only a part of your life can then morph into an identity as you hold onto this mission and probably put many other things in your life on hold while you wait. For their acknowledgement, their approval, their apology, etc.

And here is what I have learned after a few decades: you have to give yourself permission to know, to feel, to grieve, to live, and to move on.

They are comfortable enough; their comfort depends on you playing the part they probably set you up to play. As long as you and others participate in the dance with them, the likelihood of them feeling uncomfortable enough to reconsider their choices is, in my opinion, very low. Especially in this society, where we have a high enough level of social mobility to where they can easily find someone, even many, who will take your place.

It can feel very lonely on the path of pursuing better for yourself. It can feel hard to find hope. But there are others out there. We can take back true control when we start creating a life we want versus waiting for anyone to give it to us. Whether we deserved better or not. All we have is now. And all we can really hold onto is ourself. And we will be wherever we go. For better or worse.

I believe everything we encounter is working for our healing. It might not feel that way. We maybe want or expect a more sanitized healing experience. But the longer we go, the more it might take to get our attention also.

Yes, there were probably true times where we were victimized. But we can’t change anyone. They have to want to change. Even if we can force their actions, is that really ultimately satisfying if their hearts and minds are not for or with us?

How much more will you give them?

What do you really want? What life do you really want? And will you take a step right now in that direction?

Already Included #63 – What Is Love?

By: Sarah Nyhan

Do I love you? Is it really my place to tell you that I love you? Or would it be better if you told me that I loved you. In other words, only you can tell me if I love you?

That probably won’t hold a lot of water with many, but I think it holds enough. From experience, the people who told me they loved me have been the ones who hurt me the most.

So now I feel rather presumptuous saying “I love you” anymore. Most will probably say I’m reading too much into it. But now that I am learning what love really is, and maybe more what it isn’t, I don’t feel likeĀ  tossing that word around as flippantly as I used to – and I was reserved with it even before. But not reserved enough.

“Love”, as in “I love you”, is a verb. Actions. Not just a feeling inside you. I can have feelings of affection towards someone, but that doesn’t mean I love them. It took me a long time to learn that. To also learn that just because someone wanted me, that had very little correlation with whether they loved me.

One time I was in a relationship with someone who speaks Spanish fluently. I remember asking the person how to say “I love you” in Spanish. They told me to say, “Te quiero”. Later on, much to my surprise, I found out that the literal translation of “te quiero” is “I want you”; whereas “te amo” literally means “I love you”.

In American English, “I want you” commonly has a different connotation compared to “I love you”. But I think most Americans probably mean “I want you” when they say “I love you”. And so now that phrase makes me feel uncomfortable since my thoughts on love have changed so much. When most people tell me they love me, now it feels like they are requesting something from me. I feel like their “I love you” is a gun holding me hostage a lot of the time. Like it’s a demand more than an assurance.

True love is a gift. A real gift. A free gift in all senses of the word. What do I give to others that is truly free of any expectations?

I heard someone say that you wouldn’t have to convince people to believe if they actually knew they were loved. I don’t think that is an intellectual knowing. I think there is a deeper, richer level of knowing that is beyond the reach of our intellect. Preverbal children know love on that level. It is very connected to feeling safe in another person’s heart. It’s where your mind isn’t confused. Where dissonance isn’t constantly following you around and popping out to steal every last moment you try so badly to enjoy.

Our only hope is God, of course. But not like before. Not working so hard to love. Not reading the Bible, or praying, or otherwise doing more.

No, I find the only way love organically flows out of me for and to others is when my heart has been refreshed by Spirit. And through others when it is genuine.

I can’t give away what I don’t have. Speaks to a lot.

Already Included #62 – Meaning

By: Sarah Nyhan

“Do not be dismayed.” Over and over in the Bible. Do not be dismayed.

One dictionary defines dismay as the loss of courage due to fear.

What are the stories that we tell ourselves? The more I think about it, we basically have a 100% chance of being wrong about how we see the future turning out. I guess 50% chance at the most. Maybe. But when I really flesh it all out, it is really ridiculous to think we understand anything that is going on. Much less think we are ever able to accurately depict the future. And that is what storytelling is: being a fortune-teller, a psychic. It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.

Yet we live our lives in story. We build our identity within a story. A story that we’ve told ourselves. Or someone else’s story that we’ve adopted as our own. We build, or try to build little kingdoms on top of these stories, out of these stories, in these stories. We go to war and kill people for our stories.

It’s so crazy the more I think about it.

I am a product of two humans deciding to have intercourse one day. That involved a bunch of cells racing towards each other and at least two sticking together. Then those cells multiply and grow. Then somehow a soul or a spirit gets attached to all that?! Who can even really scientifically explain even what a soul or spirit is and where it comes from?

Nevertheless, then I’m born a helpless child who is at the mercy of so many other humans for a great majority of years. I’ve been told a lot of stories during that time. I’ve been pressured to pick a story and stick with it. Even for survival. And yet, I know nothing. I only know what I have been taught or experienced. And I haven’t had very much time to figure out what is true and false about all that. Speaking of time, it flies by. And I’m asked to make so many decisions without really knowing for myself what is best. I manage as well as I can within the stories I have, but for the most part it’s a falling forward.

And then people ask you what your plans are for the future. As if simply planning will ensure specific outcomes. 2020 was a slap in the face in that regard. 2020 was a slap in the face, a wake-up call, in the stories of most, I imagine. Like going to the ocean and seeing how small you are. How powerless in the face of… everything.

And yet we judge each other. We say, “I figured out a story that seems to be going better than yours.” For now. Until the cancer. Until the accident. Until the
.. etc. Etc. Etc.

I admit I initially get overwhelmed. About 20 million times a day. And then the absurdity of demanding control and certainty just knocks the rug out from under me. And I fall. I let go. There is nothing else left to do but enjoy the flight.

My word pictures lack the punch I feel and desire. But I try. Like in everything else. Imperfectly.

This is mystery.

Where am I? I am in You, Jesus. Not because I know how or why. But because You said so. And You know the real story. I’m just a kid. But I am Your kid. With all my stories; probably mostly incomplete or incorrect. And yet here I stand before another day. In the lens of Your economy (and what a terrible way to put that), things could go my way just as much as they could not go my way today. I will do my best to fumble through but really my only hope is You. Please help me see things as they really are. Please help me see through Your heart versus all my fears. Even the ones people shame me into not professing. You know, God. You know me. Better than I know myself. If You said that You work all things for good, please help me see that story. Please restore our hope. And joy. I believe You already are. I want to feel it. More and even more.

I only have this instant. The stories I tell myself about the future are just my imagination. They are not real.

Maybe the only thing I need to ask myself is, “Am I alone in all this? Do I really think my Creator spun me out into this world and abandoned me to myself and the mercy of others?” Too many things have happened during my time for me to be able to answer “no”. I hope the same for you.

If it isn’t the end yet then there is still more to the story. And I want to stick around to find out. To fully experience this crazy ride we call life. I believe we all are eternally safe in our Creator, our Abba’s heart. So I want everything there is for me to have here. So I practice choosing to let go of the stories I tell myself and the meaning I give anything. And in doing so I practice choosing not to be dismayed.

Everything could change in an instant. What if tomorrow holds that moment? What if even today?

What if I included Trinity and Their Love into all my equations? With God, anything and everything really is possible. I want to dream bigger.

Already Included #61 – Plain as Day

By: Sarah Nyhan

I took a friend for a drive downtown a few days ago. It was nighttime but I knew where we were and where we were going. In contrast, my friend hadn’t been downtown in awhile. She was looking for a specific building and couldn’t find it.

After our excursion, I researched the building she was looking for. Turns out we had even been parked directly in front of it for several minutes as we waited for the traffic light to turn in our favor. During that time she had even commented on the business that was now located in the building she was looking for. But she didn’t recognize the building in the dark.

It felt like a good analogy for what I would have previously called evangelism. In that, we can lead someone right up to the truth, we can get truth right in their face, and they can have the best of intentions. But if they are in darkness, then they won’t be able to see what they think they are looking for.

See, my friend was looking for the building based on what it used to look like in the past versus what it actually looks like now. Just like how people seeking truth want to fit God back into the boxes they think religion limits Him to. Versus God as Trinity actually is even now.

My friend probably would have seen the building she was looking for if we had been driving during the day versus at night. In the same way, I am becoming more and more convinced that people will not see the truth about God and themselves unless Son/Light comes to clear out their darkness.

Maybe Jesus reaches out to them through our words, but I am less and less convinced that is the optimal method of revelation. I really don’t know anymore.

I’m frankly tired of being disappointed. Of sending out the invitations, setting the table, and wanting so badly to celebrate and then none of my loved ones showing up. None of my loved ones as excited. But Jesus told a parable saying the same thing. I’m not smart enough to know everything He meant then, but He reminds me now to leave the wheat and tares separation business to Him. To keep watering. To keep loving.

But not like before. Not with conversion in mind necessarily. He could use rocks and donkeys to speak; He doesn’t need me like that. The goal is less about conversion and more about healing.

Maybe that’s why He lets us wrestle with imperfect translations, denominations, and theology. Because this Jesus is personal. All about relationship. The one. You. Me. Each of us.

Versus any institution. I’m reminded that He rebuked Peter when Peter wanted to setup a structure and go to war in the physical.

This isn’t about winning. This is about healing. I can’t lead with my mind; Jesus beckons my heart. And my strength isn’t needed; this will only be done through Spirit.

Lord help us. Lord help me. My impatience. My disappointment. Even my bitterness. You always had us. We were always safe in Your love. We are kids who always need our Abba. I am Your child and I need You to be my Abba. Please help me see. Please help my unbelief. Thank You for helping me see. Thank You for helping me believe. I ask for You to restore our hope and joy. We want our loved ones to celebrate with us.

Already Included #60 – Bad People

Maybe it’s not right theology that changes people as much as right love. Maybe we make it too complicated. Maybe we overthink things. Maybe the reason Jesus lets us fumble around in our denominations is party because that isn’t the main point. That perfect knowledge is not an end unto itself. That perfect knowledge is maybe only really as useful if it contributes to more perfect love. And as such, maybe for the more intellectual among us, the undoing of “knowledge” would maybe be more helpful than gorging ourselves on even more information.

Am I too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?

There is an avoidance of vulnerability when I live in my mind. Safely tucked away in the sanitized security of control and certainty. Very much alone. Nobody measures up. Nobody challenges me. As I hold people hostage to my expectations.

And then something outside of yourself wrecks your little castle. It’s on fire. Maybe you lose everything. And you feel very ashamed. Now you need others. And where are they? You have run them all off.

But what about what they did to me? True. But maybe there is something between the do-all and the do-nothing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Maybe the only person I have control over is myself. Maybe good people, people that love us, fumble up and mess things up and hurt us sometimes.

Maybe we hurt people also. Maybe we mess up. Maybe most others don’t know what we’re going through. Maybe we can give them the same grace that we need. I’m not saying excuse actions. I’m talking about how all of us need healing.

I think when you have lived in a paradigm that dismissed you as a person and your feelings for so long then once you wake up everything is sensitive and everything hurts. It’s like the brightest light was turned on and pierced the deepest wounds in your mind and heart. Maybe even in your spirit. Like you lived your whole life in the sewers of the slums and then one day were taken to the richest King’s castle and you look at yourself and your life and suddenly all this filth and poverty you previously settled for just overwhelms you. You suddenly see all the scars, all the dirt. And now that you are able you just want to scrub and scrub until you are clean. You want to stay far away from all that previous pain.

And maybe that time is needed. To heal, to recover our strength, to clear and rebuild our minds.

But to what end? To then forever sit in judgement on all who are behind? I think I am learning that is not at all Jesus’ heart. I think He proved it as He associated with all the broken during His time on earth. Not to judge them. Not to push them away. Not to sanitize Himself from their mess. No. He was all about healing.

Maybe there will be an expansion of our hearts. Maybe that’s the only way out of this. To see ourselves altogether as one. Maybe your healing is also my healing. Maybe I am only as whole as your brokenness?

The phrase that keeps haunting me is “forgiveness leads to repentance”. Not the other way around.

Before I used to do things with an agenda. I called it love, but I don’t think it was true love. It may have been sometimes “nice” or “friendly” at the most. But love is a whole other ballgame. Love is not safe. Love is not sanitized. Love doesn’t have a formula. Love doesn’t work when we keep score.

But the good news is that love is bigger than our failures. And love is always available for us to choose. Love heals. Love restores. Love is an irresistible force. Love gets in even as they fight or rage against it.

I’m obviously not the expert here. But I know Who is. And Holy Spirit’s wrath for our total healing will never waver.

Maybe my hell is driving me towards my redemption. Maybe I’ve been fighting the very things that will be my salvation. And not only mine, but the salvation of all those that I have driven off along the way.

Lord help us, we need a Savior. Who came to earth as a baby. Not a soldier.