Already Included #26 – Signs

By Sarah Nyhan

As much as I’m ashamed to talk about this subject, I write for the little Sarah that I used to be – in case there is another like me out there that Holy Spirit somehow steers towards this page. So they’ll feel validated and less ashamed. So they’ll feel hope.

Today I had a breakthrough. A major victory. But there is quite a back story. Let me see if I can condense it enough to get you caught up fairly quickly.

I could unfortauntely write a book about the subject of “signs”. Maybe I will. But today I’ll just say that when I think back, I’m unsure of how long it’s been since I made decisions based on “signs”. I wonder when and how it started.

I know for sure it originated from being among religious people. I don’t think there was ever a sermon or study on “signs”, but more is caught than taught. I am now becoming aware that the language that people around you are using can subconsciously seep into your thinking and change you without your realizing it is happening.

For example, in the church that I started walking away from a few years ago, you could be telling someone that you were going to make a decision to pursue a certain thing and you might hear responses like: “Oh, is that what God told you to do?” Or, “Oh, so you received confirmation that that is God’s will for you?”

Another example would be when someone would be talking about a decision they made and they’d say something like, “I feel God is ‘calling’ me this way.” Or, “I’ve been led to do [such and such].”

The language is so subtle. And in that sense, insidious. No one actually ever tells you directly to start looking for “signs”. But their words imply that somehow they are hearing from God. So naturally just being around that language invites your mind to entertain those concepts.

My theory now is that unfortunately I think when you are looking for something, you will tend to only focus on seeing what you are looking for and ignore other evidence. I don’t think this is conscious. I think it’s just a fact of science and how our brains tend to operate.

The classic example is when you are looking to buy a new car. You have a car in mind and then every car you see on the road tends to be that car. Suddenly it’s like everyone owns that car.

Another example can be on the more negative side. Say you just broke up from a long-term relationship and your heart is broken. Suddenly it seems like every song on the radio is a love song sent to torture you, every person you see is flaunting the fact that they are in a happy thriving relationship, every movie is a love story, every advertisement you see is about love, etc. You get the point.

Again, this is only my opinion – but when you are in a group of religious people that tend to read the Bible in a literal way as God’s main Word to us, versus reading it more literarily and viewing Jesus as God’s Word to us, then I think we can basically end up using the Bible like a Ouija board or tarot cards.

Let me be clear: I have been one of the worst offenders I know in this area. Unfortunately bordering on… well, let’s just say my passion for God mixed with this horrible “signs” mentality led me to have a huge list of things I regret doing and are difficult to admit to even those that know and love me. Much less, publicly. I have dug myself into so many holes and have the battle scars to prove it. But I can assure you the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

This is why it is so important to guard our minds. This is why I think since I heard this “already included” message that I believe God has allowed me to be somewhat socially isolated not as punishment but rather for protection. Spiritually I have been reborn in my mind and just like you protect human infants, my newfound freedom is being protected until it has a chance to grow and get rooted in deep enough. I didn’t realize or appreciate this until recently.

This is what I think is also meant when Jesus talks about putting new wine into old wineskins. I am not able to take this “already included” message back into my old ways of being. I absolutely cannot. The box I used to live in has been blown to smithereens. I can only move forward. Sheltered by our actual God versus trying to setup a religious house of cards.

And as much as I am not used to actually totally trusting the God I always talked about, I am so thankful He is allowing the fig leaves I’ve been hiding behind to wither away. In the dying of all I thought I knew, I am finding real life. I am coming alive.

And so it goes for signs. The genius of God is that I see Him working in my logic. Blowing it up from the inside. Letting me hold onto it as long as I insist. Until I let go of my understanding and lean on His heart, His matchless unending love. Until I stop trusting in my knowing, believing, doing, etc and instead trust solely in the Father I’ve always wanted. That we’ve all always wanted. Even in the best of circumstances.

When I think back, I see there has always been an easy way and a hard way. The easy way was to take love at face value. The hard way was to do it all on my own.

The easy way was to trust God’s heart and let go of “signs”. The hard way was to not know God’s heart, to drown myself in Bible knowledge and miss the big picture. The hard way was to depend on myself and always need to know because I needed to control.

This is primarily what “signs” are about: a lack of trust and a need to know in order to control. Maybe for those who have been in a better place of knowing God versus just knowing a lot of facts about Him – maybe they have never fallen in or as far into this “signs” mentality as some of us.

And on the flip side, maybe a blessing of leaning more towards the agnostic or the atheist side is having a more grounded common-sense approach towards decision-making versus the magical thinking train of thought that I fell into as I pursued “signs”. Maybe it is easier to have that foundation and then at some point be able to see the true God and filter out all the circus of witchcraft that many Christian churches tolerate – knowingly or otherwise.

I am taking a hard line. I can because I know from first-hand experience how absolutely evil and destructive these things can be. And this is not ok. Not in any way. To turn any away from the unconditional everlasting depths or God’s very personal love for each one is the epitome of heresy and blasphemy. Is wickedness. Is the Pharisees all over again. In different clothes and different houses of worship. Jesus died for that!!! Anything else is more the work of the “anti-Christ” than what I’ve been accused of.

And that is the real interesting kicker to all of this. Never, in my entire life, have I taken more responsibility for my decisions and actions than after this “already included” message seeped into my heart, mind, and spirit. And yet the first objection I usually hear from those that oppose that everyone is eternally safe in Christ is that they think people will run totally wild if they feel like they are eternally safe with God.

I agree that there might be some testing of the waters so to speak. Some pushing of limits. Looking into the sky, waiting for lighting to strike. Waiting to fall out dead on the ground. Things you thought were off-limits before. Maybe you’ll take a taste. We see this with kids in real life quite frequently when they get their first freedom from their parents.

But from personal experience, I’d wager you might not encounter the same “grace” and “protection” you experienced in the times of your delusion. You are a big kid now. You are growing up. God prunes us. His passionate wrath FOR us knows when we are strong enough for the next step. He doesn’t quench the smoking flax or break the wounded reed. But when we are strong enough, He takes off the training wheels.

Quite a shock to me! Kinda like I was a little girl taken in by a great King and at first He provided lavishly. I didn’t to do anything. He knew I needed healing and recovering. Anything I needed, He provided. But a long time went by and He prepared me to be a full person. To be able to go our and do whatever I wanted. I was excited at first. But then the responsibilities of this freedom hit me and I was used to not having to think for myself. I was used to always having Dad bail me out. He still loved and loves me as much as ever, but he knows it’s sometimes good to tell me ‘no’ now. To help me understand the power I have by letting me experience the natural results of my choices. Never to harm me. I see this now, but not at first. Always a beloved child, but not a baby, not an infant anymore. I am designed for so much more. I need to learn and develop in order to continue to explore and enjoy the full richness of this human experience.

And here we return to the talk of “signs” and my major victory.

In 2014 I told “signs” ‘no’ for the first time in a long time. Out of desperation. Not trust. GOD showed off for me in a huge powerful way. I’ve written about it before in a piece I entitled “Iniquity“.

A short time after that, God helped me when again I said ‘no’ to “signs” out of desperation and chose a career in real estate versus teaching. That struggle had me feeling suicidal. When I say this is serious business, I know what I’ talking about.

But I still didn’t get it. Hindsight is 20/20. I look back now and see over and over and over the past five years how God has always been telling me, “I love you completely and you are totally free, but if you don’t see it then we will spend as much time as you need to in order to get through this.” My forty years, literally, wandering in the desert I insisted on. “No, I’m not ready for the Promise Land.” That was never the point. God is always big enough for us. Not that we always get what we want, but that our strength isn’t what we lean on.

I learned to trust these past two years. I felt like I failed and fell on my face more than any time in my life. And no condemnation. None. Only my choice for how long I wanted to keep banging my head against the same walls.

This is where a book would do better. I could give you chapters of examples. But let’s fast forward to two from the past month.

When I say God works within our logic, this is what I mean. I think He frustrates my thinking on purpose sometimes. So I’ll let go of bad thinking, specifically this “signs” mess. About a month ago I was wondering if I should move to Corpus Christi. As I had this thought, I crossed a street named “Corpus Christi”. Why, God?! That is way too random to be a coincidence. BUT that does NOT mean it is a “sign”. And this is where I failed before. The old Sarah would have said, “Ok, God is saying I should move to Corpus.” NO! The new Sarah sees the literal street SIGN as a challenge from God: “You get to decide, Sarah. What do YOU WANT? Would a move to Corpus get you where you are trying to go in life? Is it even feasible realistically?” Etc etc etc. I didn’t have enough “faith” to believe the literal sign was a “sign”. I actually had enough TRUST in God to turn down the “sign” and decide that a move to Corpus is not what I WANTED right now for many reasons. And it was like almost immediately after that a great job opportunity in my current city came up and I ended up being offered the position.

And yet again, that decision in regards to Corpus was more desperation even with more assurance and calm than ever before. But today!

I bought my current vehicle based on “signs” even though God allowed me to hear the salesman tell me to my face, “Sometimes I feel like the devil when I am selling cars.” I kid you not. How more obvious can you get?! Yeah there were signs all right, but my brain only saw what it was looking to see. Even as probably Holy Spirit was bringing to attention how badly my gut was feeling about the deal. But this was before I knew I was “already included”. And that vehicle ended up being a pile of junk! A continuous blaring reminder to not make decisions based on “signs”. But it takes longer for some of us.

And even though I’ve been on my Dave Ramsey hustle after finally starting to dig myself out of the giant holes my “signs” dug for me (with my help and participation), I was considering buying a new car just so I wouldn’t have to worry as much about my car’s problems.

So I went to a mechanic. He tells me he doesn’t think fixing my car is worth it. He recommends buying a Hyundai instead. Is that a “sign”?

The very next day or so I get a letter in the mail saying I am approved to buy a Hyundai at a local dealership. Is that a “sign”?!

Then a man from a Hyundai dealership calls me this morning. AND I notice this morning that a guy who spent the night at the same place I am staying is driving the same Hyundai model that I was thinking of buying. This must be a “sign”, right?!

Well, the old Sarah certainly would have thought so. The new Sarah was certainly tempted to think so. But, with the sting of following so many failed “signs” still fresh in memory, coupled with God’s unrelenting pursuit of my total freedom in His unending love for me, my mind finally had space and room to slow down this morning.

I did not ignore the signs out of desperation. This might sound like ABC 123 common sense, but for me and those who have been where I have been, this is revolutionary! Courageous, audacious, and full of bravery. To be fully present and think, “Yeah, it would be nice on many levels to have a new car. But do I really need one? No, this car I have will last a little longer and it is not my identity. I have as much value driving a beat up car as I do driving a new car. This car is a tool and it does the main job I need it to do. My priority of paying off my debts is more important to ME than buying a new car and more than doubling the debt I am trying to get out of. This isn’t about what God wants or what is “bad”. Either choice is ok to make, but I will most likely incur the natural results of whatever choice I choose. I know better now. Buying a new car does not meet my financial goals right now. So I will wait. And I have enough trust in God that if He wants me to have a new car then He will make it clear to me by providing the money. I know He can. I know it doesn’t depend on me proving anything through taking ‘crazy’ leaps of ‘faith'”.

And all of heaven rejoiced! Finally, Sarah is starting to get it. Actually They saw progress in this area in me YEARS before I ever had a clue. Many of my most “rebellious” acts have been gut responses to lies about God that I was being pressured by others to accept.

Love give you wings. Love gives you some fight in your heart. Love LIFTS YOU UP!! Real love doesn’t kick you down or when you are down. Real love isn’t scary.

First we see people teach us this. Then we experience God for ourselves. Don’t let them talk you out of what Holy Spirit has done and is doing. Tricky to balance this without falling back into the other extreme. Just trust God’s heart for you; Jesus is Their real SIGN that this is absolutely true! With an exclamation point! You can truly embrace the process. This is not a test. This is learning who and Whose you ALREADY are. More like learning to hear see what already is versus jumping back on the performance hamster/torture wheel. Relax.

This is my new manifesto: I am ready for easy love! I have done enough time. I have tried to restring myself up on the tree; I sang “Hard Love” loud and proud with the rest of them. “You can depend on me, Lord. All the others might turn away, but I’ll never give up.” No more. I am done. And it is finished. I am ready for easy love.

Lord, I believe. Thank you for continuing to help my unbelief. You are not satisfied for even one wounded lamb to think they are lost and outside of your safe embrace. I love You and You love me. You love every one of us. You love us like we never knew love before. Thank You for continuing to show us; to help us see and hear and enjoy! You do not give us the spirit of fear; but rather of power and love and a SOUND MIND!

Flee

True story time again. So I was driving the taxi late one night and I got a call to pick up a guy from somewhere. It was just that random. Just a guy from somewhere. Nothing special about it.

So I pick him up and immediately introduce myself. My theory was always that people would probably be less likely to hurt me if I made a connection with them. I’d always go something like, “Hi, my name is Sarah. What’s your name?” They’d answer and then I’d say something like, “Oh cool, nice to meet you…” and then get the small talk rolling until the destination.

Well after I introduce myself to this guy and ask him his name, he tells me his name is satan or the devil. I can’t remember exactly now, but I got the point and so do you.

Now back in those days, I wasn’t where I’m at now spiritually. I was more fear-based than love-based. So in some senses this was like almost the worst thing that could happen to me at the time.

But at the same time, intellectually I knew God triumphs over the devil. So I gathered every last bit of courage and strength inside myself and after he introduced himself as satan, I was like ok, I guess we’re going to go straight there so I gotta not beat around the bush. I tried not to show any fear and responded immediately back with all the boldness I could muster something like, “Oh, well I’m on the Jesus side.”

And then I preceded to talk non-stop about Jesus. I literally tried to say the name of Jesus in every single sentence and just keep talking about Jesus.

Ol’ dude in the back got so uncomfortable that as we are driving on the interstate access road, he just starts saying, “Stop, stop, stop! Just pull over and let me out!”

I said, “Sir, but we’re not at your destination. Are you sure you want to get out here and not keep going to your destination?”

“Yes, yes. Just stop. Just pull over right here and let me out!”

Well, it was my pleasure. I pulled immediately over into a Jim’s parking lot. He couldn’t wait to open that car door and jump out.

As he was getting out I said, “Do you want me to pray for you?” He growled back, “NO! Me and Jesus have an understanding!” Then he slammed the door and went on his way.

I never want to go through that again, but it was so empowering not to give into intimidation. Moments like that give me the confidence I have today to lob a few stones at other Goliaths.

By the way, people introducing themselves to me as the devil happened multiple times to me in the taxi. I might share another story another time. BUT, when I stopped being afraid is when it stopped happening. Never has this ever happened again to me in the eight years since the last time.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Literally.

Push Off the Wall

True story time again.

When I used to drive a taxi, I primarily spent my time transporting wheelchair-bound passengers using a special van. Most wheelchair-bound passengers were on government assistance of some sort and merely used the taxi to get to and from medical appointments. However there were a few that were financially independent enough to pay for the exorbitant price of a taxi ride to go out for leisure activities. Something as simple as going to a shopping center was quite a logistical ordeal for most of them.

So this one time I pick up a lady who is not only wheelchair-bound, but is also quadriplegic. That means all four of her limbs, her arms and her legs, are paralyzed. She only was able to move the parts of her body from her neck up.

It’s one thing to think about this theoretically, but to interact with these quadriplegic people in person just blew my mind. I can’t think of very many things in this life that are more difficult than living with quadriplegia. You are literally a prisoner of your own body. Technology has made amazing advances in helping quadriplegics. For instance, they have little mouthpieces they can use to drive their electric wheelchairs. Yet for almost everything, they are 100% completely dependent on the mercy of others to get through even the simplest of tasks. They cannot feed themselves, they cannot go to the bathroom by themselves, they cannot clothe themselves. I mean there are a lot of doubts about many people who are on government assistance, but quadriplegics do not fall into that category. They literally are unable to help themselves 99% of the time.

But you know what they do have control over? Their attitude and their mind. And believe me – I’ve seen both sides. I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but just for contrast, I’ll say that I’ve seen the dark side of what quadriplegia can do to a person. They are struggling for control of whatever they can control and sometimes that can look like holding people hostage in various ways in order to get their needs met. Or it can look like self-destructive behavior. One of the few times I almost called the cops on someone was when I picked up an older paralyzed man from a strip club and he urinated all over the back of my taxi and then didn’t want to pay the extra clean up fee. Or the times I had a younger paralyzed man who would take the taxi frequently to go out drinking at the club and then be cursing at his caregivers and demanding they pay for the taxi when he arrived back home. I’ve seen paralyzed women torture their caregivers by being viciously emotionally manipulative. I mean, try putting up boundaries with a quadriplegic. Not the easiest task, let me assure you from experience.

And I’m really not here to judge. Even the briefest consideration of their experience, of what it would be like in their shoes, just leaves me so scared and thankful I’m not in that position. I’m not saying their hurtful behaviors are ok. I’m just saying I can understand how easy it would be to go there in that situation.

But that being said, there were those few quadriplegics that I encountered that broke the mold. That rose above. That blew me away with their strength of character, mind, and heart. Some had full-time jobs that they went to. Others travelled. But my favorite was this woman who owned her own business! I picked her up from the shopping center one day and took her to her home in the more expensive part of town.

Now you might think she started her business before she became paralyzed? But no, she started her business after she was a full-blown quadriplegic! She used her mind and organized a service around what she knew best – caregiving! She created an employment agency for caregivers. She would recruit caregivers, interview them, and then find and send them out on caregiving jobs. How perfect, eh? She of all people knew what to look for in a caregiver.

Not only did she inspire me tremendously, but she also challenged me! I transported her at least twice and it was the last time that I spoke with her that she challenged me. I guess in her line of work, she was used to checking people out and evaluating their strengths and abilities. I don’t know how we got on the subject, but she called me out. She questioned why I was doing the taxi-driving when I had potential to do other jobs that paid much more and were safer.

I was at a loss for words when she challenged me. I mean she had true authority, no posturing. I didn’t feel shamed, but any excuse I had paled with the obstacles she had to overcome in her position. And she knew it. She kept pushing me as our time was coming to a close. It was an encouraging rebuke. She had full faith in me. I remember her parting words: “Push off the wall, Sarah! Push off the wall!”

I knew exactly what she meant. I was a swimmer for many years. The people who are scared in the pool cling to the wall, the side of the pool, the whole time. She was speaking my language. That’s what I was doing with my life.

She was challenging me to let go of the security of keeping myself in the relatively safe position of under-performing. Of not enduring the pain of failure to reach my full potential. Yes, any honest work is 100% honorable. But I was letting fear get the best of me. Whereas she had physical paralysis, I had mental analysis paralysis.

Not only was she a stranger speaking life to me, but her success in the face of so many challenges was so inspiring! Amazing to think that we could let fear imprison us more than a paraplegic would let their body imprison them.

“Push off the wall, Sarah! Push off the wall!”

It was shortly after that and at least two other angels in my taxi that also gave me the same challenge and spoke life to me, that I gathered the courage to start to not define myself by my failures. I gathered what little self-confidence I had left and started applying for jobs where my life wasn’t threatened on a daily basis. And what was the first job I was offered? Working as a technical support agent at The Scooter Store! Helping paralyzed people when their electric wheelchairs malfunctioned. Wow, eh?! Full circle! I’d like to think there was some Divine Intervention at work there.

What limits am I putting on myself today? I am Loved. It’s ok to try and fail. This isn’t about performing for the sake of performing. This is more about considering regrets. Will I respect myself tomorrow for the decisions I make today? Push off the wall. 😁

And this is also about speaking life to one another. You never know who needs you to see them today. When they’ve lost sight of the accurate picture of themselves. You never know where your seed of encouragement might land on someone who needs it today. Don’t underestimate whatever impact you can make. My paralyzed customer is proof of putting whatever gifts we have been given to work. Working with whatever we have. You are important, needed, and have a lot to offer!

Push off the wall. 😁

Heads Up

They call it crazy until you’re “successful”. If you “make it” then they come asking you to show them how to do it. Until then, courage in this capitalist consuming society is not only extremely expensive but also very dangerous. Don’t be fooled by all the “go after your dreams” rhetoric; success is idolized and they permit process only to that point. God’s love and acceptance gives you wings but the crabs will still try to keep you in the bucket. Especially if they consider your performance a reflection of theirs. Can we give people a little more room to be human and not have everything figured out? There isn’t a manual for this kind of flight. It’s not blasphemy to try something and learn a few lessons. Trust yourself and others with God and His never-ending love.

Five Percent

Being given a promise is in many ways similar to being with child. There is excitement at the beginning. Planning how to celebrate after the promise has been fulfilled. Other people are initially eager to discuss your hopes. It all feels so grand.

And then everything settles down and the work of waiting begins. Every day you check to see how much closer you are. Eventually the days blur and the excitement of the revelation of the promise fades. All you can see is the burden and the weight of carrying desire. Heavy, heavy. None around you can do the heavy lifting for you. This is yours alone even if they have been through similar times.

You alone sit with this promise growing and growing inside of you. It feels like you are a shadow of what you once were. It feels like this thing you think you have created has overtaken everything you were and ever will be.

Where am I? Who am I? Do I even want this anymore?

All you want is to be done with the waiting. Get on with life already.

There is a saying that goes something like: it takes proportionally significantly more effort to get from 90% to 95% than it does to get from 0% to 90%. And then even further, it takes proportionally significantly more effort to get from 95% to 100% than it does to get from 90% to 95%.

That’s what this picture represents to me. The photo was taken in Idaho. Such a small distance between the two sides, but look at the depth and the work it took to make a way from one to the other. How much longer did it take to build the bridge that spans relatively a few small feet compared to the time it took to pave the road that led to this crossing?

This bridge is a monument to blood, sweat, and tears. And yet, the visitors who flock to gaze upon this accomplishment are probably correctly focused on the beauty. For years and years and years.

And yet you can’t do it for anyone else. This is your baby. You know you have to do it even if nobody else comes along for the ride. You have to see this through. Even if all you feel is pain. All you see is work.

Our promise will be worth it. #nevergiveup

And yet there are no guarantees. That’s why most tap out or never even try. At least you will be able to look yourself in the mirror and respect the effort. Your heart.

Why not? One life. Not a final exam. What will matter most once you are facing your last moments? Less regrets.

At least I tried.

Hopeful.

Soar

God’s love gives you wings. When you understand how BIG God’s love is for you then life changes from a pass/fail final exam to a participatory party. You can take risks without being paralyzed by fear. Perfect love casts out all fear. Know God, no fear. Not the kind of ignorant overconfidence that typically is associated with so-called liquid courage. But rather, an unshakeable assurance that settles you down in the deepest parts of your heart. Peace beyond understanding. To be known and accepted. Never abandoned. Always God is for you. Ask Him to help you see today.

Morale

Sometimes the storms of life may not take us out physically, but they can beat up our morale. Fatigue sets in. To borrow from the storyteller in the video below: resting becomes difficult because you can’t stay stationary.

Interesting as I recall the story of Jesus sleeping on the boat during a storm. His closest followers with Him were freaking out. He awoke and calmed not only the waves but also the fear in their hearts.

We are not guaranteed safe physical passage through this life. But I rest more so in the spiritual as I stay close to my Navigator. His perfect love casts out fear.