Triage

“I give you permission to be mad at me… I’m going to fight for your life even if it means I have to fight you to get it.”

Spoken by Iyanla Vanzant, but I hear the heart of Papa. Our Father. Maybe one of the more succinct pictures of the redeeming wrath of God personified.

And why not? Iyanla is included and participates in the conversation, in the great dance that is relationship, not religion. That we all are involved in. Even as we stumble. Even when we turn our backs and see only the hell of the darkness of our own shadow.

Christ in you, the only hope. And you in Him.

I don’t know the answer to every little question about how it all works. But I finally don’t need to. It’s the difference between reading a bunch of books about a person versus actually knowing them. Think of the person you know the most about. You might not be able to explain everything about them to someone but you know what you know and that’s enough. If someone else wants to get to know them then they will truly understand also. Beyond the cerebral.

I’m all about sharing insight. That’s why I write. I am 100% interested in knowing all the answers. But the difference now is that my security doesn’t depend anymore on knowing the right answers. My security is now in God alone. Who God is and how much God loves us. Loves me. Loves you. I need a God that big.

I think about people who vehemently disagree with me and, with a few exceptions, most of them are much better people than I am. Some of the best people I know. And I hesitate to say it, but I know eventually you get to a point where you need a God that is bigger than you. When the wind gets knocked out of you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc and you find yourself face down on the ground.

Not that God is punishing you. Not that He has some sick power trip where He wants to see you suffer. But if you insist, He lets you carry a big enough chunk of the whole world so that you will figure out you can’t and don’t need to.

I heard someone say the other day that faith is knowing you have nothing to offer. Not that you are nothing. Jesus didn’t die for nothing. God so LOVED you that He hung bleeding and naked on the torture device we nailed Him to just to prove that you can give Him everything you got and you still won’t exhaust His love. Your healing is His mission.

You are free to surrender. You are free to rest. You are free to fall back into arms that already hold your heart.

I am learning to give up.

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.

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.

Summit

I was on the top of a mountain. I went to the Northwest School of Theology conference. It was the last full day. I hadn’t said much until this point. But my passion was stirred. My spirit was heavy. So much energy in the room. I spoke. Some congratulations followed.

Then another moment to speak a little while later. I knew the time was coming. I had prepared something. I almost didn’t share it because it seemed more serious than what others had shared and I didn’t want to be the person to shut down the party. But at the last minute I decided to share what I wrote and leave it in God’s hands. The reaction was overwhelming. I had to turn away.

I’ve experienced this before two or three times. It’s difficult to describe but it’s like I’m not even in the room when it happens. It’s like my mind can’t really take it all in and understand it. I’m there but I’m not seeing everything and I can’t remember much afterward. Only bits and pieces.

I remember a lot of people talking to me in a congratulatory way. I remember someone I know giving me a hug. I remember someone saying I am a theologian. I remember one of the speakers, Brad Jersak, saying he wanted to put what I wrote on a blog: http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2018/09/never-give-up-by-sarah-nyhan.html

So I was really pleased. It seemed like all the struggles of the past year were paying off in a sense. I felt like God helped me to communicate the comfort with which He has comforted me. And hope. Especially hope.

My expectations were that maybe I’d finally reached the top and it would be all downhill driving from here. Not a fall but more like smooth sailing. I was pretty disappointed when faced with problems soon after. The very next day in fact. More than blowing a tire on the interstate on the way home at 3am after my flight was delayed over two hours, the real disappointment was in sharing my excitement with others outside the group and receiving little to no response.

It was good in the sense that it humbled me. I’m afraid of becoming prideful and ruining everything. Having my mountain top experience during the conference and then nobody outside of the conference really giving a flip about what I said afterward was great for keeping my feet planted firmly on the ground.

At the same time I felt frustrated and disappointed. I feel most times like I have the best news on the planet and nobody wants to hear it. I feel like I have invitations to the best party in town and nobody wants to go. Jesus talked about this also. So I’m in the best company.

It was also interesting to think about why the reactions are so different. God is not weak. Think of all the stories. If He wanted to, He could make this all known in such a way that people would hear it and see it. Why doesn’t He do that?

All I can think of is that the not knowing leads people to seek Him in the process of trying to figure out life and themselves. So again I am faced with the new perspective that knowing the right answers isn’t the main point. The main point is relationship.

Maybe some of these people aren’t at the place where they are ready to hear what I have to say? Not that I as a person am better. But in some ways I think WHERE I am is better. In other words, it is what it is and that’s ok either way.

It’s just such a mental trip to see something so clearly and put it in front of someone else and they have no idea what you are talking about. They don’t see what the big deal is.

It reminds me of “the dress” that went viral awhile ago. Some people swore it was black and blue. Others swore it was white and gold. How can we both be correct and be so different? Or the yanny/laurel phenomenon?

I read once that the color blue doesn’t even exist in nature. It is only our eyes that see it based on the filters we have for the light that we see. Or that’s my understanding at least.

In like manner, I read somewhere that people with blue eyes like my own see shades of colors differently than others. Maybe that’s why sunsets and shades of blue resonate so deeply with me when others could care less.

All to say it seems like the same applies spiritually. I have to come to the place where I don’t need anyone else to validate what I am saying. Where it’s ok if nobody gets it. Where I can be happy and let others be where they are in this adventure.

Yet share anyway. Still open my heart. Still be available. Not get bitter or discouraged. This is all so much bigger than me. My identity and value cannot be wrapped up in what I share or who cares about it.

Let others be. Trust God with the details.

Not everything I wanted to say on this. Or the way I wanted to say it. But life calls…

A picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll end with a meme and a quote a friend shared with me. She’s the only one outside of the conference who seemed to understand and share my joy.

Huddle

My ex tried to warn me. When I told her I found a church back in 2011, she said it was just a club. I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with being part of a club of people that are headed in the same direction as I am?” Well, it’s fine when you are accepted, but it turns really ugly when they reject you.

I say ‘they’ knowing full well at times that I probably treated others the same way that I am being treated now. Maybe Justin Timberlake’s lyrics are wisdom: what goes around comes back around. Or more to what my readers may know: judgement, so to speak, begins in the house of the Lord. We, those who have at times incorrectly esteemed ourselves to be quite elite, forget that to the measure we judge others is the standard by which we also setup our own medicine.

And so I sit here after being rejected by those still in the club. They tell me that what I now believe is from the devil. They tell me that I am with the anti-Christ, even though the whole crux of my hope is the incarnation of Jesus and I can’t shut up about what that means to me.

They tell me that I am a heretic and they are going to warn others about me. Which in a funny ironic way is “free press” that might in the long run reach more people and have more of an impact than would be possible without them. Takes a whole new meaning to the concepts of “no bad press” and God working all things for good. They are spreading the good news without even intending to or realizing it. Their prayers being answered contrary to their expectations and without their awareness. Evidence that we are all participating with Holy Spirit, even and maybe more so in our weakness. All glory to God.

They tell me that I don’t care about the truth anymore and so they distance themselves from me. Which is ironic as their mission is apparently to bring people to truth. Yet in their own words and actions, they leave those they have identified as lost. I am thankful Jesus doesn’t do the abandonment I experience from some of those that sing His name every Sunday.

Again, I say this knowing I’ve done the same in the past. All well-meaning actions motivated by verses in the Bible that I thought justified and even commanded my actions. So I get it. In a way I am now quite blessed to have the perspective of both sides. Hopefully my words will bring healing to all. To those that are probably ignorant to how they are hurting others. And to those that are being hurt.

But as this journey continues, I am encountering a phenomenon that I did not anticipate: I am learning how to be a real person and live a real life. Grieving the multiple decades that I have formerly lived pretty much in a cult mentality. More generously referred to by those in the club as a “holy huddle”.

It is literally like I am learning to be a human again. Thinking all along that I was light years ahead and now conversely feeling so far behind. Like an alien that has landed on a new planet. Worse than being a child because I have to unlearn all the old junk in addition to figuring out the new ways. A huge serving of humble pie. More prayers being answered in unexpected ways.

The beauty being those teaching me by example are completely unaware of how much they are challenging me in the best ways. People those in the club deem unworthy. Children of God even if they have sex with the wrong people, imbibe the wrong substances, and don’t look the part. Waiving the wrong flags but expressing more love. In actions, where it counts most.

This stretches every part of the former me still hiding out deep within my psyche. All my boxes are being burst open. For the better I’m sure. But it’s taking time for me to get my bearings. To navigate this new course. Or rather to be led. To be held, quite literally. Not on the performance treadmill anymore. Not trying to balance the world on my shoulders while spinning all the so-called “spiritual” plates.

Finding my safety not in deciding who is in and who is out. But rather experiencing a firm foundation in the absolute security of my identity as a beloved child of God in Christ. Perfect love casting out fear after fear that silos me when I attempt to self-protect. Some of which include the fears of failure, not having the correct answers, not having all the needed information, not having enough time, and never experiencing relief or justice during my time on this planet.

Increasingly ensured that God is bigger than me. Bigger than us. Bigger than our failures and our pain. Bigger than our minds can know. Better than our hearts can imagine.

His love the only strength that keeps me from shutting down in the face of such relentless suffering and sadness that is endlessly experienced and broadcasted. His love in those moments where He shows me He sees me. His love surprises me, catches me completely off guard when expressed even sometimes most grandly through the seemingly selfless gestures and generosity of relative strangers outside of the religious clubs.

And as tempting as it is to swing the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction, happiness is found in releasing everyone from my expectations. Relishing and celebrating those moments of connection where our actions align beautifully with who God created us to be. Yet relying only on Him. Understanding all are human; still broken at their best. Giving each other permission to be in process. While not excusing, enabling, condoning, or allowing behaviors that should not be. And in that regard, realizing the dance of defining every minutia is way above our pay grade. We do our best and trust God with the rest.

A person I am especially fond of advised me to mine for diamonds. Or in the words of another human I appreciate, eat the meat and spit out the bones. That is what is helping me a lot as I learn what this new life of relationship looks like. Celebrating the good keeps my heart and hands open. Enjoying people when they stay and genuinely giving them grace when they go. Knowing whatever happens here in this life is only the beginning of the story.

Views

Looking at the mountain is not the same thing as being on the mountain. The views are completely different. So is our experience when we make a religion out of spending all our time inspecting the invitation to relationship with God. We substitute looking the part for real healing. And yet God is with you now wherever you are. Ask Him. Ask Jesus to reveal God to you.

I’m Here

I was led through an exercise where I was asked to think of a place where I would like to meet Jesus. Any place. If I could decide to meet Him anywhere. Then to picture me and Jesus in that place.

What does the place look like? Smell like? Feel like? Etc?

What does Jesus look like? Is He touching me? If so, what does that touch look like? Feel like?

Does Jesus say anything to me? What does He say? And finally, what are His eyes saying?

I don’t want to share the rest of the details, but for me, Jesus said He enjoys me and it’s ok to be silent.

It’s ok to be me and not have anything to say. I can stop all my trying to force connections. With Him and others. Give space. Trust Him. Stop trying to carry the whole world on my shoulders sometimes.