Already Included #34 – Home Now

By Sarah Nyhan

I signed up for a social media site recently and every time I logged in it would ask me to specify my hometown. I literally couldn’t. As a child, I never lived in any city for more than four years. Many times, only for two years. Sometimes I even attended more than one school in a school year.

Since this is how I grew up, I didn’t know any different really. I was mostly around other people who were living the same way. The first time I can remember feeling out of place was when I was moved to a town where the majority of people had lived there their whole life. I wasn’t aware enough to articulate it at the time, but I instantly felt lost and unhappy. But God – in His absolutely amazing greatness – gave me a friend who was also new to town. That made all the difference.

I heard of people who identify as third-culture kids. Initially I thought it only applied to missionaries or something. And categorizations being as they are, the label is not an end in itself. But the means it provides is much like a buoy for navigating certain times. I find it helpful that way.

For me the conepts related to identifying with third-culture kids, helps me start to unravel why this “already included” message has me flat on my back versus up and running. I realize now that unconsciously I adopted a way of surviving that consisted of evaluating every new situation to find out what was required of me by others. Then I did my best to acclimate accordingly. For four decades! I operated as if the only option was to have an external locus of control.

In addition, it wasn’t just being living the life of never being with the same groups, but also certain relationships required surviving by supressing myself and operating defensively. I.e. accommodating others.

Then we get to the spiritual side of the house. Never in all my time would I have considered anything other than making decisions based off what the Bible said. Even if I went against what the Bible said, I still used it as my point of reference for decision making.

None of this really worked for me. But it was all I consciously knew. After many decades this would look like agonizing for weeks on end trying to figure out if God wanted me to go into real estate or teaching. This would look even as sitting at a restaurant and asking myself what the other person would want me to order before I made my decision. I could go on and on. Almost every decision was predicated by evaluating what others expected from me.

This way of being kept me alive for a long time. It served many purposes. There is no condemnation. But I absolutely was completely blind-sided by how this “already included” way started and continues to rip away that old way of making decisions and thankfully replace it with a new way of operating.

But this has taken at least two years. I say that all to say hang on for the ride and forgive yourself if you can relate and feel lost. As much as this already included way has freed me, I have been as an Israelite seeking something of old to grab onto for some sense or normalcy. Even if what I am reaching back for was what was killing me.

I love how God doesn’t give into me as I have been absolutely blind in my determined reaching. It has felt like a dying or falling even as this already included way tethered me eternally. I felt the peace IN me even as my mind was reeling.

I didn’t understand why every time I asked God for direction I felt like He replied, “What do you want?” Nobody ever asked me what I wanted. Nobody in the pulpit ever asked what I wanted. All I ever heard or felt was “do this” or “do that”. What do I want? I haven’t really thought about that in forever.

I was mad at God. I felt abandoned. So I looked for expectations from others to pick up. But His wrath FOR me blocked every turn in that direction. It took a long, long time – years – to figure out He wasn’t blessing anymore what I used to survive certain times before. I wanted structure for the sake of structure. In a way, my chains felt like the only home I ever knew. So much that freedom felt more terrifying than the underlying misery I always knew.

“I know the plans I have for you.” To give me a real future and a real hope.

What do I want?

The most terrifying and beautiful question for me right now. This means I have power I never knew I had. This means the entire universe is open to me. Unlimited possibilities. This means I cannot blame others once I know better. This means I will have regrets. But this also means love exists. In and for me.

Overwhelming. When I can even switch my mind to this mentality. Right now I only really consciously switch out of my old way to this new internal locus of control maybe once every few weeks. I am confident God will keep drawing me until I get it. For now even accepting the idea, the freedom is monumental!

I feel for my friends in the old faith. I absolutely know they mean well. I did when I was there. I think of the things people would say to me. I know understand why it sounds cultish. And yet God is always with us. Leading us to the next step we can handle.

As much as I want to break them free, I can’t. There are so many things we need to learn along the way. I always remember what John MacMurray taught; in my own words as it applies to me and my situation: God doesn’t just want me free – He always wants me to want to be free.

This freedom, this asking what I want, is surprisingly not leading to narcissism or unbridled selfishness. I see Christ IN me, of no doing of my own, as love is given space to grow when this already included way takes law out of the equation. I have been so pleased to watch this. It is completely new to me. To ask myself what I want and I feel depths of compassion for myself others that was always there but never allowed to flow free. The way of my being is starting to match the essence of my being. As a child of God. Not a cog in some machine. Well-meaning or otherwise.

I mourn, I grieve all that could have been before. But I try to give myself grace. Even in allowing myself this time to grieve. Not holding myself to some impossible standard. Just honoring God, myself, and others as best as I can in the next step, in this present moment.

All a fantastic journey even as I don’t understand what is happening or where to go most of the time. Never felt so incompetent and yet so loved and safe. We have a good, good Father.

Living loved. All the colors. The world comes alive! What do I want?

Already Included #33 – Surprise!

By Sarah Nyhan

Had some interesting experiences lately. I love when Holy Spirit teaches lessons just through regular life. Much easier not to doubt or let others take them from you. When you have lived it yourself for real versus determining the validity of what someone else is telling you.

So the first example is that I have been wrestling for some time with the concepts of determining how much of life depends on me basically. Specifically I have been wrestling with whether or not I am “hearing God” at all or correctly. I am farther along but not as settled as I’d like to be on this issue. What follows are some thoughts I’ve had lately.

First, I was formerly involved in a church where people talked about hearing from God ALL the time. There were some that I believed heard their own agendas more than Holy Spirit. But for the most part, I personally whole-heartedly believed I was also hearing from God at the time. Not audibly. But “in my spirit”. Whatever that means? How can you distinguish that from your own thoughts? I’m not doubting it. I’m just asking, how can you really tell for sure?

Even as wary as I am about assigning thoughts to God these days, let me share a few things that happened recently. One was that I was playing a game of Freecell. It is how I deal with anxiety and stress sometimes. I am always trying to beat my time. Despite 1,514 attempts, my best time was 41 seconds. Hundreds of games went by and I wasn’t able to get any less than 41 seconds.

So I am playing as I usually do and I was talking with God in my spirit about this whole hearing from Him thing along with the freewill issue. I’m not even really paying attention at all to what I am doing in the game. I’m more in my thoughts than the task at hand and I look down and see that I won the game in 23 seconds!!!!! Almost half of my personal best time without even trying or being engaged!!!

I felt like God was encouraging me through that experience to just do the regular things in life and let Him surprise me. Don’t be so concerned about figuring Him or the future out. Let Him surprise me.

My insistence on knowing what He is saying to me is about control. It is the absence of child-like trust. In some ways, all I can get is what my little mind can dream of if I insist on my way. But if I stop trying to control everything, and instead surrender to trusting God’s super-big heart for me, then the universe and beyond is possible. There is no limit.

But some of us are slow learners. The problem is I’ve been doing it so long, and been around people who talk that way for so long, that most of the time I’m not even aware when I am falling back on my usual habits. I can know “the grace of just this day, this moment” in my mind, but that might as well be a world away from my heart.

So the opportunities present themselves repeatedly. As all that is not love’s kind gets burned away. Not tests. God isn’t tricky. He is always FOR me.

Fear took the wheel as usual. I was soooo sure that I knew what this week was going to look like. A big meeting. I was so sure I was reading all the “signs” correctly. Yet again. I mean they were so “obvious”. Everything was adding up. Or so I thought.

The time came and it was exactly opposite of what I was so sure was going to happen. Afterward – a little chat in my spirit with God; what gives? Again, the lesson: to let it go; embrace mystery. Trust only in God’s heart versus trying to figure out the future.

This is so difficult for me to navigate. And yet over and over I see Him pick me up when I fall down and make a mess. Maybe THE most freeing thing about this already included knowledge is that I now think that the point of this life isn’t to get everything “right”. Mind blown! That was my ENTIRE existence before! Again I feel like a person who has lived in a cave for 30+ years and is rejoining the human race. What do you do with your time if you aren’t trying to get everything “right”?

I keep asking God what the purpose of this life and our existence is. I don’t have the answer yet. Maybe I never will. Or maybe it is not that complicated. Doesn’t even the Westminster Catechism include the line that always confused me before: man’s chief end is to enjoy God forever?

The only way I ever saw that before I understood perichoresis, was something like I had to listen to Christian music all the time and work really hard to convince myself that I never wanted to listen to anything else. Good grief! To reduce God’s magnificent absolutely stunning Creation of human relationship with The Divine down to religious rituals!?!?

So I trip along. I am more at peace than ever. I am learning to let go of everything; every idea of what the future holds. And YET, go forward.

There is a paralysis that occurs when you are wrestling with this transition. How do you live? You just do the next thing. Trusting God’s heart. That this life is more than getting things right. That our God is not tricky. That He loves us so much. He is not the least bit intimidated by us or surprised by our mistakes. Even our anger. I feel like life is more like a dance. Like God is always looking us in the eyes. No matter which way we turn.

What if we are made for so much more? Than just getting right answers. What are the seeds of greatness inside of you? What is the Sarahness of God that the world or even one person needs from me? What about you?

I like to think of all of us as tiny painters. Contributing our part to this wonderful masterpiece of life. God giving us all a unique color or a unique brush. So binary in my thinking, but you get the point.

Look at the ocean or a jungle. How many different species and iterations are there in the plant and animal kingdoms? And we reduce our human existence down to falling in line with rules given by an angry God!?!? Maybe we should put the man-made echo chamber of technology down step back outside again. Get down to our roots and remember where we come from.

I hear laughter! Loads of laughter from Creation. Crying out in celebration. We are meant for so much more. We have the God who created galaxies inside us. And we are inside Him. I don’t know how it works, but I believe it. I think I experience it.

We have not because we ask not. Even greater things than these. Remembering that this life is not the end. And love is the greatest commandment.

This is not a condemning sermon. This is a whisper to the dream inside of you. A dare to ask God for the next step. To reignite inside you what used to feel free to imagine. Let’s stop dress-rehearsing tragedy.

This world cannot be all there is. What if we felt completely secure in God? How far would we reach? How much higher would we jump? Not just for the sake of. But really releasing all that is not of trust and rather relishing in Whose we are and the freedom we have to BE! Abundantly!

Amen? Selah.