I’ve been thinking a lot about Jonah lately.
Not in the nostalgic “children’s songs about-Jonah and the whale” kind of way. Not even in the Veggie tales version of the account (and I love their story telling.) But in the hard no- sugar coating- what- obedience- to -God involves kind of way. Sometimes the temptation to be swallowed up in the belly of a big fish seems enticing.
“One day long ago, God’s Word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.”3 But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish—as far away from God as he could get.”
Resorting to Our Own Head Stories
The human tendency is to run from the source of fear. Discomfort creeps in and pulses through my veins. My heartbeat becomes an unrecognized rhythm-frantically trying to keep up with the racing thoughts running through the brain.
Jonah’s solution lacked logic but that’s what happens when you resort to the story in your head. Jonah ran not just from Ninevah but from God. The problem is, we can tune out God but God doesn’t tune out us. God is well aware of the bigger story.”
God’s Movement Isn’t Just For Our Own Benefit
God has a way of showing me the implications of resorting to my own head stories. For Jonah, a storm erupted. And the consequence wasn’t known only to him.
“At that, the men were frightened, really frightened, and said, “What on earth have you done!” As Jonah talked, the sailors realized that he was running away from God.11 They said to him, “What are we going to do with you—to get rid of this storm?” By this time the sea was wild, totally out of control.12 Jonah said, “Throw me overboard, into the sea. Then the storm will stop. It’s all my fault. I’m the cause of the storm. Get rid of me and you’ll get rid of the storm.” Jonah 1:10-12″
God’s purposes for us aren’t just for our benefit. Yes, we may broaden our understanding of God’s character . We are reminded once again that God sees us and our ability to trust in our Creator and Sustainer is renewed. But we also are sacred vessels of heavenly interaction with each other. Our willingness (or lack of) to follow divine leading directly impacts others.
Whoa! That’s worthy of reflection. How many times have I unknowingly benefited from a word, an attitude, or an action that was a result of someone else’s obedience. What if that person had chosen to jump on a ship going the other direction instead?
The Impact of Obedience
I think of all the times, I’ve wanted to jump on that other ship. When suddenly being asked to take on roles of immense responsibility for someone’s health within an unfamiliar environment. When feeling betrayed by those I trusted yet having to continue to cross their paths in community. When realizing I am surrounded by loud, intimidating voices of neighbors who see life differently. When entering a new workplace with new lingo and protocols.
I have no idea how God has spoken in those circumstances. Maybe I said or did something that affirmed to a hospital employee that God saw them. Even through tears. Maybe in my pain over broken relationships, I recognized our common broken nature. Maybe my voice raised in my community challenged someone to listen to a new perspective or liberated someone else to share theirs. Maybe my vulnerability led someone else to bare their soul.
Maybe I don’t always see the reason for going to Ninevah. But God is well aware of the bigger story. Just as Jonah eventually surrendered his fears, so must I. Because I can try to tune out God but God won’t tune out me. Or the people who are part of my “Ninevah” journey.
This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/ (*Disclaimer: I sometimes go a bit over the time limit 😉 )
HI Stephanie, the story of Jonah has a special place in my heart – as a person who jumped on a ship and headed for Tarshish myself at one point in my life 😉 The phrase, “I can try to tune out God but God won’t tune me out” resonates with me. Thank you for your willingness to share this.
Such great insight!
Oh boy! I have been thinking a lot about my fear lately so these words resonate with me so much! I’ve jumped on that opposite destination ship too many times! Thank you for reminding me that God has his reasons for sending me where He does and that all I have to do is obey. I know it’s true but it helps to hear it over and over again until it “sinks” in! Great post Stephanie!