Already Included #22 – Anger

By Sarah Nyhan

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger recently. Specifically about how anger seems to be highly discouraged or not encouraged in many religious circles I’ve been in. Even with this new-to-me message of everyone already being included by God in Christ.

There are several things I’ve been thinking about in regards to anger.

The first thing I was thinking about in regards to anger is wondering whether feeling safe enough to be angry at a loved one is indicative of the existence of real trust? We can pay all kinds of lip service, but do you really trust that person enough to be angry with them?

I see this in cults of personality a lot – where there is this inability to get angry with the person who is carrying the show. Then sometimes a monster continues to grow and does nobody any favors. I’m getting better at seeing it, some improvement in accepting it, and starting to give myself permission to be angry and walk away if needed.

There is such grief. We put our hope in people. Probably mostly unconsciously. Maybe there is a level of shame that keeps us from grieving when we start to see that someone is failing us. I’m not saying the shame is warranted, but there’s this feeling of loss, maybe great loss. Like if I can’t count on my mind to protect me from falling for these kind of people then how will I ever feel safe?

It’s this very hard business of learning to trust ourselves. And then what? Sometimes one more disappointment feels like it will be the break. Sometimes we just go along to get along. Something is better than nothing? Maybe for a time. I have a feeling the Life in us won’t let us get too comfortable even as we might keep things at bay by keeping our minds busy, busy.

More on anger; switching gears. Is it ok to express anger to God? To say, “God, I am angry at you? If you are so about relationship, why did you let so and so go away? I know you can do such and such, God? Why don’t you?” Etc etc etc. Do we feel safe enough with God to express our anger to Him?

I was thinking about Job. How many chapters did Job go on and on and on? It’s interesting to me that God doesn’t show up when Job is keeping busy intellectually. It’s when Job’s emotions take the wheel and he unleashes his anger, in a sense, that he finally hears God speak. Not when Job had his church clothes on with all the palatable pretty “right” answers. It feels like when Job got real and angry, that’s when God showed off for him.

In my own life, there was a time where I told God no; I was so angry with God. And just like Job, that’s where I feel like I heard and saw and experienced God the most at least for the first time in years.

I was thinking about the little children running to Jesus and Him admonishing the adults to approach Him as a child. Have you seen a little child lately? They haven’t had the fight knocked out of them. When they are angry, they express it without regard for social/culture manners.

Does Jesus mean for us to give Him even those cries in our hearts? What does that even look like? To hold us as we rage? I don’t like the opposite argument that says, “Don’t be mad at God or He’ll get you and let you have it.”

Switching gears again, I was thinking about how it is hard to get angry at the people that you value the most. Especially if those people have been maybe the only good in your world.

Again, we go back to is there the illusion of relationship or real actual trust? This scares us. Even as life is rarely yes or no and black or white, it’s too scary for me to think about getting angry with the people I love and then risk their rejection.

Avoiding the questions doesn’t make the sick feelings go away. My experience in expressing my anger has revealed even more assurance versus no hope. Understanding and deeper levels of maturity also seem to result. It’s almost as if anger is an invitation and a gift in this respect. A bridge to more intimacy if treated as such.

And finally, switching gears again. Somewhat related but maybe the different side of the coin for religious folks: anger towards those who are “getting away with” things maybe we’d like to do. Which creates quite the internal dilemma for those exiting a legal paradigm. There is a strong resistence to letting go of “rules”.

I sometimes see others experiencing anger when they see others getting away with their judgement of “sin” or scandalous freedom. Yet the anger seems to be rooted in jealousy more than in “righteousness”. And yet to live in that legal paradig is to miss the point. Let’s use an example:

Say you are married and see someone else engaging in physical relations with people they are not married to. The initial reaction might be, “This is wrong!” But maybe deeper you wish you had the freedom to act on your impulses.

Please hear me that my point is not that having premarital sex is “good” or “bad”. I’m not going to go there. That’s not the point.

The point is that it’s easier to be in a legal paradigm of telling yourself, “It’s wrong and against God for me to have sexual contact or emotional relationships with another person outside of my marriage.”

And then on the flip side, it’s almost easier to cheat on your spouse if you operate under that same legal paradigm. Because then you can objectify your spouse and consider the act of cheating as only being offensive to God. Then you don’t have to open your heart to your spouse and ask the harder questions.

However when you switch to operating through the example of The Trinity, then cheating ceases to be a legal question and then becomes relational. Without operating under law – now you have to consider your spouse’s heart. Now this person is not an object. Now love is the standard. Now it’s not about seeing what you can get away with.

Now the bigger questions come up for the brave who will go there: “Why do you want to cheat on your spouse? How would their hearts break with your cheating? How would your other relationships be impacted by the cheating? Is cheating an act of love towards everyone who would be impacted? And if I don’t care, then why not and what does that say about the current state of affairs of my relationships?” Etc etc. A goldmine for the courageous who embrace the questions.

That’s all for now.

Already Included #21 – Will It Be?

By Sarah Nyhan

A few weeks ago I was driving down the road and wondering whether I should go live in Corpus Christi. Right after I had the thought, I passed by a street sign with the words “Corpus Christi”. The old me would have seen that as a “sign” to move.

The new me saw it a little differently; saw it as a friendly challenge. As in, “Do you really need to go down this literal road again? How many times do you have to bang your head against a wall before you turn around and go a different way? Cause we can keep doing this as long as it takes. The wall ain’t going anywhere.”

Out of all these years, this has been the one thing that seems the hardest to let go of. I’m sure this has some deep-root in needing to feel safe. And in control. Whew!

We only need control when we don’t trust. Think about it. Think about a lover, fictional if need be. If you implicitly trusted that person’s heart for you, you would be ok letting go of control. But not so much if you have doubts.

And there I am with God. Still unsure after all these years. Light years beyond where I started, but still not all the way there yet. Maybe never will be. But I’d like to continue growing.

And so these signs. It’s about being able to predict the future. Which rationally is impossible. Yet our culture is so obsessed with the illusion of being able to control and predict the future that we take it for granted. We hold each other accountable for things we are really unable to promise.

I’m learning to live in the grace of each moment. Borrowed primarily from Paul Young. Like he also says, letting go of outcomes. This makes me seem like I don’t care. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. But those still on the “other side” have become very upset with me; even to the point of not speaking with me.

Because I am learning to use different language. I am not so certain anymore. Learning not to over-promise and under-deliver. Still a long way to go, but making good progress.

All to say I’ve slowly, painfully been coming around to the concept of “writing my own story”. This is completely opposite of the deterministic god I was taught in previous religious circles. That god has a plan and I was along for the ride. Hence, the signs.

This new-to-me God I think is different. Maybe not totally hands-off; I’m not buying that yet. But whenever I ask what to do, mostly all I ever get back now is, “What do you want to do?”

What do I want? I never asked those questions in the old way. That was blasphemous talk in the old way. Literally and seriously. In the old way god didn’t care about me; I had a job to do and good soldiers were rewarded.

Ironically it is the study of the history of science that is clearing things up for me. Whole worlds. These scientists were not special guys in many senses. We make them larger than life and they certainly had gifts. But in a way I think some of their non-religious focus contributed to their freedom to abandon themselves to the pursuit of the wonder of Creation they saw and experienced. To me now, science in good measure is one of the highest most beautiful forms of worship.

I imagine God not looking down on Mr./Ms. Scientist and being disappointed that they are in the lab versus going to church. Rather I now picture Holy Spirit right there across the lab table giddy with excitement as one of Their kids starts to unravel a mystery that will change the world. Totally unthreatened by the questions and debates that will ensue. All a part of the process of inviting us to draw closer. Even in our anger and disbelief. Not a puppet master; rather able to handle anything and everything we come at Him with.

And here is where my mind strains at current capacity. What might we do if we really got it? If we really understood how Creation yearns for our full release into all we were designed to be. Not in a plan so much as possibilities.

This is where the ceiling blows off all my previous boxes. From the INside out. Instead of figuring out one storyline, now the entire cosmos is a possibility. Do you know what this means?! We get to write our own stories! As in, what would your life look like if you started over with no signs, no plan. Just a pen. What would the next line be?

This means you can pursue that dream. To borrow a bit from my brother, this means it is almost a sin NOT to pursue the dream inside of you.

Now don’t get carried away; as with anything – my words can be incorrectly extrapolated to unhealthy extremes. Remember, if our choices will impact others in ways that look a lot different than love then I’d say tread so lightly and do a lot more considering and talking to God about that.

But the point remains. You could have been created as a dog or a donkey. Instead you were given the highest place on this earth and in the known cosmos. You were given life in Their Image. You are not God, you do not exist on your own. But you are definitely given so much power to create. Anything. For better or for worse.

Have you really embraced that ability and power? Is your story going to be coming home and watching TV until you go to bed? For the rest of this life? I mean, I get it; the world is really sad – sometimes you just want to get away. All I am saying is maybe don’t blame that life on God.

It hurts to dream. It hurts to pick up the pen and try again. Fact is we’ve lost a lot; we’ve been sold a bag of bad goods for a long, long time. That’s hard to take. There is anger and deep deep grief. And time to mourn. But at least for now, also another tomorrow.

They already took enough; don’t let them give us a life sentence. Take today back. Take YOUR life back a moment at a time. What does writing your own story look like in this minute?

I don’t think God is a tricky God. I don’t now think He has some magical plan that He hides from me and leaves breadcrumbs in signs for me to find. That would be too tricky, in a bad way.

Now I see it differently. I see it as He opens in my mind windows of possibilities; gives me insights into avenues for exploring. And any are mine for the pursuing. Knowing the participating is more the point than the outcomes.

This means I can dream bigger. This means I can ask for more. This means even a simple life is worth as much as solving the latest planetary crisis. We dance with this God. We are not being dragged.

I used to pray as a little girl that I wanted to walk with God like Enoch. I used to pray as a little girl that God would help me not to be deceived. That He would never leave me to myself. I see so much how those prayers have been answered over and over. To the point where I was shown I can stop praying them out of fear and relax in God’s total love and acceptance. He hears, He knows, He sees. I don’t have to beg Him for things He already is happy to give us.

I’m still not really settled or sure what prayer is anymore after all I’ve been through after the past almost two years. But what I know for sure is that there is so much more out there for us to experience and embrace. Our God is not the icon on a throne with scepter in hand as subjects prostrate themselves around on the floor. Now that is blasphemy!

Our God embraces the little children who run to Him. Children who instinctively knew He was safe to run to. Our God puts on astounding displays in new sunsets and new sunrises every day. Our God sings to us from night skies and northern lights. Everything saying there is more, there is more, there is more! More beauty in us and for us. More love. More of Him to explore.

I wonder how far we can take it? How far can we take “you have not because you ask not”. I know this is NOT name it and claim it. But unanswered questions are invitations that continue to beckon.

Whether you do much or do little, whether you do big or you do small – today you write a story. What will it be?

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.

Redeeming Wrath

Trying to manipulate God is religion. Or as I prefer to call it, witchcraft. It is no different than the idea of witches sitting around a boiling pot with a book of “spells”. The key is that you think there is a formula where if you do xyz then God’s switch/button is pushed to automatically do abc. And if He doesn’t do what you thought was His side of the deal, then you must have gotten the formula wrong. That is religion and witchcraft. That is not relationship. Even if your book of “spells” is the Bible. Even if your formula consists of doing things that are so-called “good” when done on their own without any agenda. This is subconscious stuff we’re talking about. As you mature, you grow away from blatant prayers like, “God, if you do abc then I’ll do xyz.” But even if you know not to explicitly say it, your heart might be at the wheel still making decisions to that effect.

Relationship is entirely different. Relationship is not about control and manipulation. Which is why it is so difficult to accept. Total respect for the other person. Total freedom. To walk away or stay. I choose to love you even at your worst. Because of who I AM. Letting the other person go completely. Yet not enabling. Not consenting, not condoning. My releasing you is not me giving you permission to treat me however you want. To do to me whatever you want. I still have the ability and responsibility to exercise my power to choose how much I expose myself to your behavior. This is relationship.

Where you are invited to participate. Where your choices and decisions matter. But not in terms of performance. Where you as an individual matter. But not in terms of conforming as if we were created with our highest good being religious robots or so-called “spiritual” yes-men. To reduce it down to that is an insult to the beauty of who we are and who God is. Not an insult in terms of an affront to ego. But insult as in a gross miscalculation, a severe understatement.

Real love does you no favors by allowing you to continue on in stinking thinking. Even when it means I get something out of the deal, out of your wrong thinking. Real love doesn’t use you like that. Real love, even though it wants you close, will endure the pain of pushing you away when it is better for your ultimate and highest health and healing. It looks like punishment, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I AM passionately furious FOR YOU. Not against you. I will not stop and settle for using you as if ego was everything or anything. You mean too much. I want more for you than you want for yourself. That is real love.

I long for your embrace. I wait day in and day out for your return on the horizon. Even a word. A glimpse of hope. I would search under every rock and behind every tree if I knew it was better for you. But you’ve chosen a different path. One you have to get to the end of on your own. Not because I want it that way. But because you insist. You don’t see yet. You don’t trust because you don’t know that you are safe and that you are loved. Dearly. Deeply.

I Want

I was listening to a really good talk by John MacMurray the other day. He mentioned that God isn’t trying to muscle His weight around to get us to submit to Him in the sense that most likely comes to mind. Rather He works, and maybe I should say loves us to the point where WE want what He knows is best for us.

How different is the wrath of God in that context? It is wrath only in the passionate sense of never giving up on us. No matter what the cost. Only for our highest good. Not for His ego.

He doesn’t need ego. He is secure. He knows who He is. He is complete without us. Actually, the Trinity exists in perfect union. Always about relationship. As I believe Baxter Kruger says, others-centered self-giving love.

Remember how God walked daily with Adam and Eve in the garden? That is communion. Let’s even leave out the religious language: that is hanging out. Wanting to be with us. Having love to give and share.

He is not interested or satisfied with an army of robot minions. It never was that way. From the beginning. This isn’t about law. We are the ones who care so much about law. God is about relationship. Always has. Always will be.

He doesn’t want you to say and do all the “right” things. He is constantly showing you who He is so you will trust Him. For your highest good. And of course, His enjoyment. In the sense of wanting to spend time with you. It’s been that way since the beginning.

For God so loved the world. Will you ask Him for healing today? Maybe ask Him to help you see Him today. And also how He sees you.

Control

Maybe the whole point is that we can’t manipulate God and there is no formula for ensuring that we get what we want.

For many, it is terrifying to accept that we have no control of God. The alternative is to take responsibility for our choices and trust Him for everything. Probably an easier task for the unchurched – those who have escaped years of religious doctrines and dogmas.

I’m a champion for the real Truth, but a lot of what I’ve encountered has been more akin to witchcraft. I.e. if you do x, y, and z then God will do a, b, and c. That is witchcraft. You’re just replacing spells and potions with behavior modification and superstitions. It is much more personal and scary to be in relationship.

I always thought the point of the book of Job was to say that God can do whatever He wants to do and we shouldn’t question Him. But now I wonder if maybe the point was to show that we cannot manipulate God.

Job was righteous. Even God said so. But it seems to me that Job and all his friends freaked out when the “formula” that seemed to work before was no longer working. They sat around thinking, “Where did we go wrong? It must have been something we did. Or didn’t do. If only we could figure it out. Maybe we just didn’t try hard enough.” Just like we do in modern times.

We call it grace but forget that means unmerited favor. Unmerited.

Some might say that we have the propensity to want to believe we can control and manipulate God so that we can feel better about ourselves compared to others we see doing worse. I disagree with that being the entire reason.

I rather think it comes down to fear. We see bad things happening to other people and we want to avoid that pain in our own lives. So we try to figure out a formula to escape bad things happening to us.

For some that looks similar to what many call OCD. For others it looks like agoraphobia. For others it looks like benign routines, never taking risks. For others it looks like religion. For others it looks like proving we “trust” God by presuming on His grace – in the pratical sense, being super risky.

But I think God was telling Job that there is not a formula. All and anything we have is a gift. Being alive is a gift.

He works with us where we are. He lets us get to the end of ourselves if we insist on trying to do all the heavy lifting without Him. Rules just show us that we aren’t as independent as we’d like to believe we are.

If we knew how much we were loved, we would trust. That is why I write. To share the hope that I have been given. Hoping it will resonate in a seeker’s spirit and encourage.

He says to come boldly to the throne of grace. Like children.

I notice there is a theme in the American culture that I’ve witnessed. The theme is that parents refrain from sharing wealth with the children. They say it’s good that the child struggles and suffers. They basically say the child needs to know that they shouldn’t depend on anyone.

Some spread their wings and soar. Others fall on the ground and then we call their value and character into question.

But I was thinking: why would it be such a bad thing to prepare your children for the best possible success? Why make it more difficult for them to succeed in a world that is already dog-eat-dog?

Why not give them clothes, education, transportation, housing, and healthcare so they can focus on their work and have the best possible chances of success? Wouldn’t that make sense for the family as a whole?

I think that’s the key: family. I see the super successful put this into action. It isn’t all about me, me, me. There isn’t a poverty mentality. Their actions speak that the children are wanted, desired, included, accepted, loved, provided for, etc. The focus is less on the individual and more on the group.

We are as successful as our weakest member.

I say all that to make note that I think we project the way we treat each other, and the way we’ve been treated, onto God and then incorrectly conclude that we aren’t welcome in His home or in His heart. Jesus came to show us that it is God’s great joy and longing to gather us under His wings.

Perfect love casts out fear. I thank God that He doesn’t treat us like we treat each other. He doesn’t leave anyone behind.

At the same, His passionate wrath will not let us settle comfortably into a wrong view of Him. He resists our blind, valiant attempts to appease the gods we have misrepresented Him to be. Only for our highest good, not His ego.

It would do us so well to truly understand who we are in Him and who He is for us. It would change everything if we only knew and believed how much we are loved.

It would mean we could not continue to hide behind the litany of excuses we employ to attempt to shield ourselves from the consequences of our poor decisions. But the good news is that we would see that the fear of failure, death, and so many other temporary states do not carry anywhere near the same paralyzing, terminal power we attributed to them in the past.

We are truly free to live. To love. To create. To participate.

Amen? Are you willing? Enter His rest. Ask Him to help you see.

Lucky

I was thinking this evening about how it probably wasn’t just luck or coincidence that Ruth ended up in her Redeemer’s field. How do we then balance the tension between recognizing Divine coordination and reading too much into things?

I have had many instances in my life where my paths crossed with someone else with such specificity to my situation that I just cannot accept it as purely random, a manifestation of positive thinking, or related to attraction theories. There seems to be something much bigger happening.

And yet we know God is not a puppet master. He Created us to create. To make our own decisions. I don’t feel like I have the space I need in my mind to fully appreciate or understand the dance between His omnipotence and our free will. I can spend hours analyzing the nuances of my every step as they pertain to this question. Or I can live. And trust. Like a child. That kind of knowing settles in where it needs to go only through experience. Not endless education.

We are invited into relationship. I feel confident that we are also invited to participate in this Divine Dance, as some refer to it.

There used to be a country song that I heard but cannot recall right now. It had a lyric that basically was: she wants to know how the song ends before she starts to dance. We can get stuck there. I’ll say it as long as I live: perfect love casts out fear.

Here I’ve been trying to know as much as possible all my life. Endless preparations and rehearsals. Over the years more and more of what I was so sure I knew feels like best guesses for the most part.

Now it is becoming clearer to me that the only thing I really need to know and can know for sure is God. That’s it.