Already Included #19 – Biggest

By Sarah Nyhan

I’ve noticed a phenomena in myself and many others where we choose to align ourselves with whoever is “biggest” versus best. We tell ourselves that biggest equals best, but that is more a lazy convenient argument than actual truth.

I’m sure many of us have gone to a new city and chosen to eat fast food instead of exploring the local fare. The best restaurant we’ve never tried could be located around the corner, but instead we’ll choose the bigger fast food chain rather than do a little investigative work. We tell ourselves we’re making the right decision because the fast food chain is bigger and “safer”, even though in more familiar surroundings it would be our last choice. All to avoid venturing into the unknown.

The great majority of us who are U.S. citizens exclaim that America is the greatest country on earth without having travelled enough outside of our bubble to say that as an experiential truth. We’re one of the biggest countries, but does that automatically make us the best? How different are we than the homeless person who chooses to sleep on the streets of an over-priced city with few realistic prospects rather than venture out to a more affordable smaller city only miles down or up the road?

We do this with employers, universities, and even churches. Yet bigger doesn’t always mean better. As a mentor told me, more isn’t better – better is better.

Yet it’s not easy to do the work of finding out what is actually best. Maybe more to the point for some, it’s also not easy to do the very difficult work of facing the disappointment and mourning of having invested so much into something we hoped would turn out differently. To the extreme, people have literally lost loved ones to wars fought by this big country – the ultimate sacrifice. How can they even start to consider that loss might have been in vain or unnecessary? (I’m not saying this is true in all cases; only that thinking it could be even in one case is close to unbearable.)

It can even be difficult to accept that we’ve invested more time than was warranted with a big church or a big employer. We end up playing on tilt; hoping one day our investment will pay off if we keep pouring all we have into it. Especially insidious when those in command misapply good spiritual principles to guilt those looking up to them to not hold them accountable.

Then there is the hard work of facing the rejection of others. Less of an issue when you try to buck the system with your friends in a new town. If they all reject your attempts to try a new local restaurant instead of a bigger fast food chain then you’ll probably choose not to die on that hill. What’s a few less-than-optimal meals?

But if we’re talking about leaving a big country or even an big employer, there will be a measure of pretty fierce rejection by many of our comrades. My personal experience has been that leaving a big church or a big theological way of thinking is not much different.

I never initially considered that even jealousy could be a reason for rejection versus outright disagreement with my new viewpoints. Sometimes there are people who don’t even feel free enough to even admit to themselves that they long for something different and better. When someone else speaks their truth or has the audacity to act on it and then experience undeniable freedom and joy – that threatens their entire house of cards. Your courage can be offensive in that sense. And their reaction might be anger towards you. It’s too much for them to face – until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable.

Just because a theological belief system is the biggest, doesn’t mean it is completely true. Over and over we have proof of this not only in general history, but also in our own Bibles. People have paid with their lives and livelihoods in order to leave these systems and speak and live out truth as was revealed to and embraced by them.

What motivated David, Daniel, and Esther to stand against the great big human powers of their time? They knew how much bigger and better their God is compared to the greatest displays of human power.

“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Even Jesus showed us that all of man’s worst is not to be feared. Being with God is the true majority no matter if all of Creation turns against you. As I’ve said before, I’d rather be in the desert with Jesus than in a “promised land” without Him.

And yet that isn’t the end of the story. Human nature says stick your tongue out at the other side and clob them over the head when you get the chance. For all your troubles and to give them something to think about. But is that the example of our Saviour? He certainly didn’t subject Himself without purpose or in all cases, but His attitude and being was humble service versus ego.

In that regard, when rejected we can fully trust Holy Spirit with our comrades and loved ones. We are free to go live our lives without having to devalue them or anything positive we obtained through our time with them. To every thing there is a season. Just because it is time to go different directions doesn’t mean there was never anything good.

And likewise, just because I love you doesn’t mean I can never disagree with you or that you are never wrong. This is the beautifully big business of navigating relationship in the context of God’s perfect and complete love.

Although I cannot turn back and join you just because you won’t leave, and although I will not stop seeking the destruction of every lie that destroys us or destroys the connection between us, my growth doesn’t have to mean your annihilation. And vice versa.

Wish each other well.

Responsibility

One of the biggest rebuttals I’ve heard when I tell people that I believe that everyone is safe with God in Jesus Christ after their physical bodies give out in this world is: then that means I am telling people they can do whatever they want and it doesn’t matter. Well, let’s talk about that.

First, yes, I am saying that I think being completely safe in Christ means that people CAN do whatever they want. BUT it does NOT mean I am telling people they SHOULD do whatever they want with total disregard for anything other than their own desires.

Second, and VERY importantly, I am absolutely NOT saying that you can do anything you want and it does not matter. Actually, since I have changed my mind about things a little over a year ago, I have experienced the greatest unveiling of how much my choices actually matter very much.

Freedom comes with almost unbearable responsibility – at least it feels that way sometimes for someone who has inadvertently been blaming a lot of their life on destiny or God. As the depth of the implications of the weight of true freedom sinks into my being, I am so burdened by the new realizations of how decades of less than ideal decisions have impacted my own life and the people I could have loved a lot better. The hope of God’s never-ending love and patience for all of us is the only way I can bear even thinking about the things I wish I had done differently. Much less, the overwhelming amount of things I need to change and repair in my life going forward.

And that my friends, is hell. Hell is very real. Real enough. And yes, we get to choose life or death. In this life for sure. Is that not enough hell for you? Maybe you’re young or fortunate enough to not yet be reaping a harvest of poor seeds you have sown. Some take awhile to mature.

Judgement begins in the house of the Lord. You can take that as far as you want. But in practical terms, I think you’ll have enough to keep you busy for quite awhile if you start with His home being in our hearts. Those new temples, if you will. I finally am starting to see the planks in my own eyes – and they are not pretty.

It is really impossible to face all of that without absolute security in regards to my position in God’s heart. Only the true love of Jesus can do this.

I spent how many decades focused solely on myself because I couldn’t put to rest the future of my soul? Or the souls of those I love? Perfect love drives out fear. And helps you relax enough that you can receive love and then love God, yourself, and others. Probably in that order. And organically and sincerely versus posturing – however well-intentioned.

The effects of all this change leaves me sometimes dealing with a lot of anxiety. More than in many times past. If I rely on my own strength and forget that God finishes the works He starts and leaves none alone on their own.

This feels like getting new feet under you. It’s real relationship of unlimited depths. It’s ICU for your entire life. Whether you feel ready for it or not.

Even then the choice is up to you. Life or death? Will you participate? Will you not hope in what you can see, but in the unfailing character of your Creator?

No condemnation. But I wager the unfathomable love of Christ will not cease compelling you forward for ever-increasing healing. For your benefit; not God’s ego.

This is real life. I’d guess most of us could stop right now and do much much more with what we already know. To whom much is given…

Real life. Your heart and eyes may start to be opened to those around you. It can be quite a shock with ever-increasing awareness and insight. But I have a feeling that things will be better than ever before after walking through this part of the journey. In Christ, with Christ alone.

Let God’s real love lift us up.

To You

Dare I say that a theology that divides and separates is no gospel at all. If my theology doesn’t help me see all in Christ then I think it is headed in the wrong direction. Back to the spiritual stone ages.

If my theology doesn’t lead me to love people more then I don’t think it is correct. Now let me clarify that love is not the same thing as enabling or condoning all behaviors. There is no love in lies. Deeper connection is sometimes associated with increased costs required to take a stand for what is the ultimate best for all involved.

But if my theology puts us back into an us/them or in/out mentality, then I think we’re circling back around the same old worn out mountain. The same tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Same song, different verse. No real substantial difference than the rest of the religions out there.

Real life is so much more complicated. Existing on continuums. Spectrums of awareness. We need each other. The difference between asking why versus the pride of certainty. Investigating. These are real people with real lives. And Jesus loves them all. God loves them all. Holy Spirit loves and is constantly at work with and in all.

If The Good Shepherd goes to gather every last little sheep, what gives us the right to give up on someone? Giving them over to God is not giving up on them. We do what we do but their healing is not our responsibility. We participate. Salvation does not originate in us. Relief from the condemnation rained down by probably well-meaning clergy and also a multitude of common every-day religious folk.

Loving you means I can tell you no as well as telling you yes. Loving you asks, “What can I do to help?” Versus circling around the sinner with stones ready to throw. This is a heart issue. Not another behavioral checkbox. We comfort with the comfort we have been given.

Start by looking inside first. This is not about posturing. This is not about simplistic “happy thoughts”. Real relationship rises to face reality. With a heavy dose of hope. From our Creator, our Father. Whose heart is full of eternal unfailing love.

This love happens organically. This theology arrests your heart and new life flows upward to your mind. Unforced joy and peace that passes understanding lifts you up out of the performance pit and into the everlasting arms of a Father that enjoys you and doesn’t do abandonment.

Will you rest in Him?

We all want to be loved. At what point did you give up? At what point was it too much? What is the next root of deception that we can expose and remove in the pursuit of embracing the truth of your identity in Christ and the wonder of all that entails? How can I help you embrace the new life that is already yours for the taking? That will free you as no other formula ever could.

Thoughts to consider as you continue in conversation with those you encounter in this moment. Relying solely on Holy Spirit for protection and specific direction.

Selah.

Atmospheric Ducting

“…the sudden release of bottled-up convective energy – like the bursting of a balloon – can result in severe thunderstorms…”

Lightning. Thunder. Huge thunder. Not even that close. But it shook the entire building. I am amazed. Not many man-made things have that much power. To shake an entire three-story building from maybe around a mile away.

Lightning. Pouring rain. It hasn’t rained like this in a long time. Sheets and sheets. I stayed in the car for maybe an hour hoping it would let up. No. Still going hours later. Fascinating.

Seemed like it came out of nowhere. A long hot summer as usual. And then this deluge of needed rain. I am amazed that it’s been going for hours. Not your typical Texas storm.

Of course I draw spiritual parallels. Hoping this storm is a metaphor for how I’ve been in a long dry spell spiritually. Not inside. But outside. It’s been unrelenting pressure. I pray for relief. For a change of seasons. For refreshment.

These storms are so powerful. They remind me how small I am on this big earth. How the world doesn’t revolve around me. Of course. But sometimes we get so focused on the detail of something in front of us and we forget the big picture.

These storms also remind me of how big God must be. Just a flash of lightning. A crack. And then the thunderclap afterwards. The big harvest moon, the relentless sun. The enormous ocean.

So small and yet so loved. Blows my mind.