Church was pretty thought-provoking this morning – straight out of Jonah. Of course, we started the service with a prayer for the Jacksonville Jaguars – I think maybe we shoulda prayed harder for that one…
Who didn’t grow up knowing the story of Jonah and the whale? I spent a lot of formative years trying to figure that one out…could you really live for 3 days inside a big fish? Of course, God makes anything possible, and in a child’s mind with a great imagination, it was good pondering material. Thankfully, as I got older, I learned that the story was really about obedience, and not about being whale bait (which sounded sort of interesting – just to see what the inside of the fish really looked like).
Today, I gave it more than a passing “ponder”. I realized how many times I have taken the Tarshish route, and kept making the same mistake – maybe for different reasons – but ultimately, still choosing my way instead of the path that was chosen for me. Why? Fear – of taking an unknown path, of delivering an unpopular message, of not being “liked”, of physical injury. Ego – thinking that my way is better, putting my needs first. Lack of – or weak – faith – doubting God. Laziness – not wanting to put in the honest effort and work, looking for the quick or easy way.
The few times I have been brave enough to head straight for Nineveh were not bad experiences – in fact – quite the opposite. I found that I was equipped with that which was required, and the experience was one of growth and often gratitude.
I also realized how much Jonah there is in me after re-reading Jonah’s response to the Ninevites when they heeded his warning and changed their ways. Instead of being delighted that they listened, he was angry with God for not chastising them. Talk about a grace lesson. This also makes me think about my motivation for doing some things that I have chosen to do. Did I chose the activity because it was something I truly wanted to do – or did I choose it as an opportunity to do/be better than someone else? Where is my compassion?
This kind of tied in to a previous sermon that was linked to the Bible verses in Isaiah 30:15 – in quietness and confidence is your strength. When I settle my mind and my heart, get quiet and listen – I can find my confidence to choose Nineveh. The same can be said for choosing activities that I engage in. In quietness and confidence, I can search my heart and know that I am doing something for the right reason.
I’m sure this will be an ongoing challenge – but with God’s patience, compassion and grace – I look forward to more Nineveh and less Tarshish!