By Sarah Nyhan
I still believe in miracles. I just don’t believe I am a fortune teller.
I still believe God can do the impossible and nothing is too difficult for Him. I just don’t believe that He always does what WE, in our limited vision and understanding, think is best.
I don’t think I have to believe enough or have enough faith to make miraculous things happen. I don’t think I have to fast enough or pray enough to make miraculous things happen.
It sounds rather harsh, but I now think that thinking there is a formula to manipulate God into doing something I want Him to do sounds a lot like witchcraft. The Bible is not a book I use to cook up spells as I stand over a boiling brew.
I now think it’s quite the opposite. I think letting go of all of that “magical” thinking is maybe more the catalyst for God being free to pour out supernatural stuff into my life as it won’t now be reinforcing any stinking thinking that would otherwise be the death of life in me.
This comes down to trust. If I think God is always and forever for me then I can relax completely. I know He wants more for me than I want for myself. I know He is not satisfied with any death or sickness in me that I am willing to settle for.
I don’t have to try to predict or control the future. I can just be. I am free to choose and make my own decisions. At the same time that I hold my dreams, desires, plans and goals very loosely. Not that I don’t aim for anything, but I now make a lot more room for God to surprise me.
I don’t think God is tricky. I now think of “signs” as more to catch my attention than literal direction. To get me thinking or to get me to the next step. Versus a literal end in themselves.
In my last post I shared an example of “signs” being used to challenge my thinking. Not in a destructive sense, but in the way where you let a kid struggle to learn something new because you know they are capable and ready.
Now let me give an example of signs being used to get me to the next step versus signs meant to be taken literally.
Back in 2009 I was living with my girlfriend. I had a dream one night where I dreamt that it was “The Rapture” and all these bodies were being lifted up into the sky, but I wasn’t. In my dream, I looked over at my girlfriend and I heard God say, “So she’s worth it?”
I woke up and shot up in bed. The dream was so realistic that I wondered if what I dreamt really happened. I called my mother and figured if she answered then “The Rapture” didn’t happen. She answered and I asked her to pray for me.
My girlfriend at this point had woken up and came to see what was going on. I told her I had to leave. In less than five or so hours later, I was moved out and living two hours away. Two years cut off just like that.
My best friend. Everything. I cried and cried and cried. I was so mad at God! But if He was that serious then I had to do what I had to do.
Flash forward ten years and I’m learning about this “already included” message. I’m realizing I was wrong about a lot of things. So my mind is more open to revisiting everything I thought I always knew. But this gay thing, that is too painful and too much to rip open right now.
Until it’s forced upon me over and over. Three specific times. The last was an encounter with a leader of a local gay Christian group. I can’t run from facing this anymore. But my “signs”?
So I followed Brad Jersak’s example of asking God what He thinks. I said, “God, what about those ‘signs’? I thought for sure you told me homosexuality was wrong? I don’t believe anymore like I did before that homosexuality is cause for someone to be separated from You. But some things are still ‘wrong’, right?”
And as God often does, the answer I received back delivered truth with surgical precision versus the hack job I was attempting: “That was the only way you would have left her before she broke your heart.”
Literally, stunned silence! I did not expect or anticipate that response at all!
When truth hits you so hard and deep that to explain it is to do it an injustice. But for the sake of my point, I’ll try to continue to communicate:
God works within our logic. He masterfully blows it up from the inside out. As Paul Young says in The Shack, not all roads lead to God but God will find us on whatever road we are on. Something to that effect. And so every moment He asks me, “What road would you like to take?”
I’m amazed that even in our brokenness, God allows us to cross paths with each other for times. So the good in us can bless each other. So the not-so-great parts in us can keep being worked out. Iron sharpening iron.
And this is the case. We needed each other for a bit. And enjoyed each other for a bit. But in retrospect I can see the time was probably coming to an end.
But back then and even until recently, I didn’t have enough self-esteem to walk away from people who weren’t all the way for me. I would have stayed until the bitter end.
God knows me better than I know myself. God knows I would never let go. God knows my heart couldn’t have taken a hit from her that would have broken my heart anymore than it was already broken. It would have knocked me down further than leaving the way I did tore me apart. Maybe the way it worked out was easier for both of us compared to the alternative.
And so He worked within my logic. He worked within what I now believe was my very false fear of eternal damnation. Because that was the only thing big enough to get me out before my heart was broken. Even to save her from having to live with breaking my heart. Wow! God is an amazing genius like that!
I wasn’t ready then to see what I see now. A lot of junk and fear had to be worked out of me before this “already included” message could be received. I need to remember this when I am so impatient for others to understand.
And the gay thing? Still being worked out. Maybe I already have the answer but I’m not ready for it. I don’t know. And honestly that’s ok right now.
God is powerful enough to make the answers obvious if that was the point of this human experience. If we’re all here just preparing for some final exam.
The process is obviously much more important than just having the right answer. The depths we explore in our working things out are beyond rich in opportunity for growth – in terms of our relationships with God, our relationships with ourselves and each other, and otherwise.
This Bible I used to love to live and die on is in my new opinion now an invitation to relationship more than the religious equivalent of a Ouija board.
It sounds like I’m being crass and bordering on blasphemy, but I’m really not. I still hold the Bible in high regard for what it actually is and what it can really do. I think it is masterfully used to achieve its intended ends – which to me is absolutely NOT to take everything in it literally.
Any rational person already picks and chooses how they interpret it. Even the most orthodox people don’t go around stoning each other in today’s society. So to consider what else may not be exactly as we have always interpreted it is not such a stretch.
But I think the Christian church at large, at least the circles I’ve been exposed to, still leans a bit more on superstition than God’s heart. And in this context, I am learning to let go of fortune-telling. I am learning to let go of trying to figure out the future. I am learning how to make a concerted effort to stop future-tripping, as I’ve heard Paul Young refer to it.
Yet I still believe God can and probably will do the impossible. Whether that looks like moving mountains in my heart and mind, or showing off for the world to see in more concrete ways – I now trust Him to decide. And I stop trying to figure it out. Common sense and experience says God being God and me being so very human, the likelihood of me accurately foreseeing how the future will play out is really low anyway.
This involves a lot of mystery. A lot of letting go. A lot of being present in the moment. A lot of trust! That only grows through experience, but not the kind of crazy “leaps of faith” we thought we needed before. True rest is risky and revolutionary for the super-religious.
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to Me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on Me – the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”