Already Included #58 – First Frogs

By Sarah Nyhan

I was thirteen years young when I started high school. My best friend had an older boyfriend. She told me to go talk to his friend. I walked over to this older guy that I had never seen before. He told me, “You’re going to break up with your boyfriend and I’m going to be your boyfriend now.” And I didn’t fight back. I hate that.

I hate that I was taught to value myself so little. Now looking back, I blame a whole community completely soaked and saturated in separation mythology. If you’re told your whole life that your Creator is angry with you, that you are nothing, that you deserve nothing good, etc etc etc then it’s no surprise that you’ll settle for the first frog that comes along asking for a kiss. Or the first church that will have you. Or the first job that will have you. Etc, etc, etc.

It makes me sick now. Sick with anger. Sick with grief. To think about how much we are lied to and how we pass that mess along to each other. Crabs in the bucket. Dare someone to break out and the whole lot will come trying to pull them back down. Because don’t you dare challenge this sickness and sadness they’ve married themselves to. Don’t you dare challenge anyone’s fears.

What if I’m wrong? What if Trinity really isn’t concerned about my feelings? What if Trinity leaves me hanging? Leaves me making big dreams and big talk? I’d rather try and fail then rot away with regrets. I didn’t fight this long or this hard just to settle out of fear. No sir, no ma’am.

What on earth are we fighting for anyway? Why are we even doing all this studying and seeking? At the top of my list: real life and real love. A real God.

There is a song by Clint Black entitled, “Love She Can’t Live Without” that pretty much sums up my thinking. The chorus has the lyrics: “She can live with what goes with leaving, she knows it’s the only way, though it kills her to give up believin’, she can’t live with herself if she stays, she could settle for what she’d be feeling, if she gave in and worked this one out, she doesn’t want the kind of love she can live with, she wants the kind of love she can’t live without.”

There’s another song by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. The chorus has the lyrics, “Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight is that we’re scared to be lonely?” In my experience, that is hell. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life, someone else’s world. Just to be accepted. Just to belong. The new toy for whoever. For the lover, the “friend”, the employer, the religious community. As long as you play the part then they’ll keep you around. Swimming in shallow waters.

I want more. I want real connection. I want real life. Real love. I want a real God. I want a Creator of this magnificent universe that cares about me. That didn’t spin me out on my own. I want the love story Trinity writes for me. I want all the life Trinity wants me to explore in this human experience.

We were Created just to tread water? I can’t buy that. It’d be easier if I could. But I feel like I’m completely cheating myself when I try. Totally letting myself down.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beauty in simplicity. There is rest in God. I’m not talking about ambition for the sake of. I’m talking about not betraying my heart. I’m talking about being authentic. Being honest with each other. Valuing ourselves and each other.

One thing I did right in my life. There was a male and his family. After many decades, even recently, he told me I hurt him by not marrying him. Years and years go by. What you were so sure of gets less clear. You wonder if maybe you ask for too much. But I know I would have been miserable as his wife. No matter how much I love him. We just operate out of completely different values. It would have been oil and water. The lies creep up all around saying I should have just been happy someone wanted me around. But that’s not the point. I at least loved him and myself not to ruin our friendship. Not to force something out of fear. And that’s a love I hope he’ll understand someday. A love I wish a lot of people understood.

Maybe love made that decision easier. I loved him more than I love myself. However, these past few years have been an intensive course in learning to say no. Learning to walk away. Learning to fight back. And unfortunately learning to stand alone. Learning to trust myself. Learning to honor myself. Learning to value myself. Because Jesus didn’t come to die for nothing. Trinity didn’t Create this amazing planet for nothing. For trash. No way. That’s not my God. That’s not my Jesus.

I want this inheritance of fear to stop here. With me. With us. Not because of our strengths. But because we are safe in Trinity’s heart. Jesus proved it. I need God to help us see, help us hear. Help us be free!

Already Included #55 – Living!

2020 has once again reinforced for me that there is a big difference between living and being alive. I always joke that I will roll out of this life and into the next one looking like one of the last cars in a demolition derby versus a vintage garage-kept low-mile showpiece.

I just don’t want to leave with regrets. I don’t want to leave wondering what if. I don’t want to leave money on the table or gas in the tank, so to speak. Even with all the bumps and bruises, overall this is a beautiful human experience that I want to make the most of. I have peace that any pressure is off. But I still want all that is mine for the taking.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my time on this side sitting and staring at screens. I feel so protective of my energy and time now in that regard. I want real life and real conversation. I want real connection.

We’ve let so many fears paralyze us. I wonder how life would look for us if we went back to living life with each other. So much has changed already in the past few months. I wonder how much more could change.

In reality these devices can have very helpful uses. So I am trying to find that happy and healthy medium.

I hope we can collectively see things for what and how they really are. Not in terms of being dogmatic. Just in terms of primarily reacquainting ourselves with who and Whose we really are. Versus letting our fears have the last word.

As knowledge of our identity increases, I hope fear will decrease in at least the same measure. I find I have to exercise that muscle at least once a day; bring all the various pressures and let Trinity speak truth into and for my life.

More and more I understand the directive to guard our minds. Not in the sense of fearing punishment. But in the sense of guarding the precious life growing inside us that the world is unrelenting in attempting to strip away, even if only in ignorance. I dream of us all getting to a place in my lifetime where statements like that are the exception rather than the rule. With God all things are possible.

If we could just lay down our fears and feel safe that our breath, resources, and anything else we need is provided through God versus having to muscle and guard it from one another.

If we could just get to a place where we felt safe enough not to hold people hostage.; emotionally, spiritually, and mentally to start. If we could just trust ourselves and each other to God.

If we could just get to a place where we embrace and were open to people with different perspectives so we could love, honor, and learn from each other. If we could base our value on Whose we are and let all other compulsions to please others for approval fall to the side.

How free would we be? What could we do with all of that energy and time? Surely we were made for more than this stalemate we seem to sometimes get stuck in.

And yet all will be ok. Either way. If not here than on the other side.

But I wonder how much heaven we could bring back to earth if we felt safe in our Creator’s heart? Really safe. Perfect love drives out fear. What would we do and who would we be here and now if we stopped worshipping fear and instead spent that time in contemplation of God’s heart and our place in it? In seeking direction and wisdom?

I don’t mean to blame any victim for anything they have endured. I’m just saying what if the prison doors are already open and it’s just a matter of us feeling safe enough to walk out? Not depending on ourselves. But running to The Father’s embrace. Taking our seat at the table.

There is no condemnation. There is no pressure. This is about you. Who you want to be and why. Who you are free to be. What makes you uniquely you. And to that I pray and say, “Amen and oh sleeper, wake up.”

Am I living the life I want to live or am I simply alive?

I celebrate even the person who sits in front of the screen as a survival tactic. So don’t let condemnation or any external pressure determine your path. I now truly believe that receiving God’s love is the main objective during this time.

But I’m just wishing, hoping, and praying that we will discard fear and have fun exploring whether our hearts yearn for more.

What if we saw ourselves as sons and daughters of the most generous King and Queen? What if They made us feel completely safe? What if They provided us full access to everything They had? What if They were excited and encouraged us to follow our hearts and explore all that we could be without any fear of rejection or punishment?

Who would we be? And do we dare explore that freely today?

Already Included #54 – In the Waiting

There is a difference in how I approached patience before versus now.

Before I hoped for a specific outcome. I thought that if I believed enough and didn’t give up then that outcome would manifest.

Now I am learning to approach patience a lot differently. I still desire certain outcomes – after all, I am 100% human. However, now I am learning to detach myself more and more from specific outcomes. I am learning to trust God’s heart more.

My mind has been opened to realize that God works within our logic to bring us to whatever healing is next. I always think back to the story of the rich young ruler in that regard. The rich young ruler couldn’t see the open door. The rich young ruler was hung up on his own perspective. Jesus never expected the rich young ruler to be perfect. That directive was funny enough a form of playing devil’s advocate per se. It was climbing inside the logic of the rich young ruler. Working with what was. Basically getting to the point the hard way, at the insistance of the rich young ruler versus the insistance of God. After all They long to embrace us as a mother embraces her young, but we are often not willing.

The tax collector, the blind men, the woman with the issue of blood, and many others – they were ready for the easy way. Some of us take a bit longer. That may be why it is more difficult for the rich, talented, intelligent , etc people to see themselves running to the safety of the Trinity. If I’ve mostly been able to hopscotch around and over vulnerability my whole life then it may be a long stretch to see weakness as welcome versus a burden, shameful, dangerous, etc. I pray to God that I will not need some even more horrible tragedy to put me in a place where I am completely dependent and then can finally see beyond my own strength.

The old me kinda resents the process sometimes, honestly. But I try to remember the Israelites. Their minds had been so warped that they could only see the crumbs of what they resorted to seeing as comfort in their Egyptian slavery versus understanding that our eyes and ears haven’t ever even imagined what good things God is more than ready to give us in exchange for our dysfunctions.

Sometimes people hold on so tightly to what is hurting them. The idea of really trusting has been proven to be that dangerous to them in the past. But God is always and ever patient. Trinity doesn’t operate out of ego. They can use anything and everything we give Them and turn it for good. Our crucifixion of Jesus being the prime example.

And so I am learning to let go. To open my eyes. To be honest at least with God. To trust in Their heart versus my strength. To ask where we are going next versus demanding my way. When I ask, wisdom and comfort beyond myself floods my heart and real peace dissipates my fears. In this moment. And then again the next time I need God to be bigger than any boxes I can imagine. I am continually amazed. And that builds real trust. Versus saying I believe in hopes it will guarantee or rush along some desired outcome.

I may have told the story before, but it bears repeating again as I think about it almost daily. Such a seemingly benign moment that really changed my life. I was sitting in the lobby of the Business building on campus. There was an incredibly long hallway in front of me. I watched as this father walked behind his toddler. The toddler was just learning to walk and his little engines were on go. The toddler was not steady on his feet but you could see he was loving his newfound power. I felt Holy Spirit nudge me with, “Pay attention.”

As the toddler fumbled down the hallway, probably having no real understanding of where he was or where he was going, the father stood behind him smiling a big smile. Super proud of his child. Enjoying watching his son exercise his given strengths. He stood just behind, letting the toddler find his legs but also ready in an instant to catch the child if he stumbled.

Then the toddler turned to go down a hallway for faculty. The father jumped in front of the son. He didn’t touch the son. He wasn’t angry at all. He just stood in the way so the toddler couldn’t go down the faculty hallway.

The toddler had no frame of reference to understand why the father didn’t want him to go down the faculty hallway. And the toddler wouldn’t have understood at that time even if the reason was given to him. He might have been young enough to just barely be understanding and acquiring language.

But nonetheless, the child was unhappy that the father was blocking him and tried a few times to scoot around the father in order to continue down the faculty hallway. The father never was upset. The father never touched the child and never said anything. He only moved his body in order to block the toddler if he tried to go around him.

The child finally surrendered and turned around and went another direction. The father followed him and stood behind him, ready to catch him as he continued on his new way. The father continued to smile and his pride in his boy was still apparent.

God used that to show me how Trinity sees us. That sometimes the rejections and obstacles we experience are forms of protection. Sometimes we don’t have the ability yet to understand why our seemingly harmless desires have not been fulfilled or our ways are being frustrated.

I’m not saying there is never a time to fight for what we want. What I am saying is the attitude I have found most helpful is to slow down, look to my Creator, and ask for understanding and direction beyond my strength. And in doing so, I find God honors my desires so much. I find Trinity wants more for me than I am willing to settle for. And as I experience God, my patience organically grows.

But what to do in the meantime, in the waiting? I feel repeatedly encouraged to do the work I want to do. That God works within my desires, that following my heart in trust versus orchestrating my own salvation out of fear will be what often may lead me to experience the most healing and joy.

In other words, what is the right now? What work do I want to do right now? If I really trusted God’s heart for me, what would I do right now? If I really believed that the Creater of the entire universe loves me so much that even if I was the only child, Jesus would still have gone to the greatest lengths to prove that my strength is not needed, what would I spend my right now doing?

And there is where color comes back to my life. There is where I find my emotional, spiritual, mental, and sometimes even physical “legs” again.

I share in hopes that if your ways are frustrated, or as you are waiting, I encourage you to seek understanding and direction from Trinity versus repeatedly requesting and persuing a specific outcome. Picture The Father smiling, proud of you, excited to see where you want to go and what you want to do. Would that Father not want the best for us? Ask to see. Ask to hear. Ask for comfort. This is about relationship. You are a child that is so welcome. Let’s not only know that, but live it also.

Already Included #53 – Patience

Already Included #53 – Patience

I feel like God has been encouraging me a lot recently about being patient. That rushing is born out of fear. And fear is extinguished as I experience perfect love.

I feel encouraged and reminded about The Good Shepherd who does not berate the sheep into trusting. No, sheep are extremely sensitive. There is no talking to a sheep. The Shepherd earns their trust slowly until the sheep feel safe. As slowly as the sheep need the process to be.

Many of us listened to people who left us almost drowning in condemnation. So much of their focus was on our behavior versus the heart of God. And let me be clear, I was one of those people. Unfortunately. But the more I experience God, the more all of that heaviness is filtered out of me.

All to say, I was talking with someone who had a heart attack recently. They were taken to the emergency room and surgery was performed immediately. They were kept awake during the surgery. As the surgeon inserted something to allow the blood to return to the heart, the blood flooded the heart all at once. It was such a shock to the system that the body took a bit to adjust. Even though it was a good thing that the blood returned to the heart, there was a danger that it could have been too much too quickly.

That really spoke to me in regards to those I love. I wish so badly to celebrate with everyone. And yet my words seem to continue to fall on deaf ears. In my own strength, I get so frustrated. The disappointment can be so tiring. I admit I have lashed out in my grief and frustration.

And I feel strongly corrected especially during recent times. Not that I have been on the wrong path, but I have been going about things in ways that are at least not helpful. I have seen people through my strength and my ego versus God’s heart. I feel like there are boundaries to be had, but that my focus needs to shift from defense to desiring healing in all. To see us all as those little sheep that primarily blinded by their fears. Who need healing.

And so it would probably benefit all if I was more patient. A pastor once referred to me on more than one occasion as a pitbull. And both my middle and last names mean “warrior”. Whew! But I need to be sure I am fighting for the right things in the most helpful way. The surgeon does not come in with a butcher knife in order to operate on the heart attack patient. No, the surgeon has a team and they delicately, as non-invasively as possible, make little cuts in order to repair what needs to be healed. They make sure the patient is responding well as they go. I need to also meet people where they are spiritually and fully trust God with their hearts and our connection. That looks like being patient and listening a whole lot more. That looks like letting go of prioritizing love over intellectual consensus or amy similar agenda. My motives are for the most part pure, but the ends will probably be furthered along faster if I use different means.

Now that I think of it, the heart attack survivor that I spoke with had to return to the hospital for a second surgery at a later date. Again, a great picture for spiritual things: God meets us at our current need. Trinity does not heal everything at once. The whole book isn’t thrown at us and we are not beaten over the head with it. Some speakers might do that, but not Holy Spirit. Jesus meets us exactly where we are and patiently walks with us step by step. One day at a time. And my relationships could most likely benefit from me doing the same.

Already Included #52 – Superheros

I can remember being elementary-school-aged and experiencing a specific event where I thought to myself something like, “It’s going to be up to me to take care of myself.”

Fast-forward a few years later when I was in high school and I created a female superhero cartoon character. She was who I aspired to be. I even created and wore a t-shirt with her logo.

Fast-forward to probably shortly after my 18th birthday and I had the logo I created for my female superhero cartoon character tattooed on me. The only tattoo I’ve ever had.

I would save myself.

I believed Jesus for eternal salvation, but probably not much more. Afterall, I incorrectly thought God’s primary emotion was anger. I had pasted the face of other adults onto God. I had projected my thoughts onto God.

I look back in hindsight and see how so many of my decisions were motivated by this drive to save myself. To do my “part”. To figure it all out.

And I hear the words ring back to me, “How’s that been working for ya?”

I look back and see how the best things in my life came as surprises. God-sent surprises. Nothing I orchestrated. Nothing I planned.

And yet it’s been such a long time coming to that realization. Decades. I’m happy for the process even when it has been painful. Maybe I would have taken the truth for granted otherwise. Maybe I wouldn’t really have understood the sweetness of being loved by God had things always been smooth sailing.

Now I am learning to let go. I am putting down my torn and tattered superhero cape. I am living loved. I am relishing the reality that I am a very loved child. That I don’t have to come to my own rescue. That’s it’s ok and to be expected that I do not and will not be able to know or figure everything out.

My motivations for my actions are thankfully changing from fear to following my heart. I can barely type those words after being oppressed in religious errors for so many decades. It feels almost wrong to say. But I experience God for myself these days. So I know it to be true.

Regardless of where you stand on the issues, 2020 has exposed the fact that many of us may have been unconsciously in the habit of defaulting to fear-based decisions. Which situations have we stayed in due to fear? Which actions have we taken out of fear?

You’d think my own track record would be enough motivation, but lately I have become aware that I have my first name to thank for the continuous reminder of how well the fear-based decisions worked for the Biblical Abraham and Sarah. Among many other recorded testimonies.

To be sure, there is never any condemnation. And Trinity never does abandonment. Holy Spirit is only ever and always in the healing business. They always go to rescue the little lambs no matter how far they wander.

But I am really tired of circling this desert of self-sufficiency and fear. How about you? I want to get on with Life. I want to experience all there is to experience. I want to stop giving any power to lies.

My prayer for 2021 and beyond is that we will all more deeply experience and know the perfect love of Trinity. So that we will be free. So that we and our world and our relationships will be healed. I think it is ours for the taking once we realize who and Whose we are and always have been.