Thursday, March 11, 2010

In a Smelly Belly?

It's one of the first stories children learn from the Bible. Jonah's journey that landed him in the belly of a whale provides one of the most fascinating glimpses into the nature and character of God in all of scripture. But I think it also gives quite an intriguing insight into the tendencies of us as people too, because at one time or another, we are all tempted to run away.

I remember running away for the first time when I was five. I packed my suitcase with a Barbie doll and some of her clothes, and as far as I can recall that was it. I made no provisions for myself and I hid in the woods sitting on a log until I got scared and went home.

Mama was smart enough to let me run away. I'm quite certain that she knew where I was at all times because I don't think I was ever really out of sight of our house, but I suppose she knew that if whatever I was pouting about was that serious to me, she'd let me experience the potential consequences of my decision.

When I think of the times I've run away as an adult, a few occasions stand out. I do not like conflict for example--so a time or three I've walked away from places that God may have wanted me to stay in order to avoid the undesirable--always with what I imagine were worse consequences than the conflicts themselves were likely to have generated.

God gave Jonah very clear instructions and he ran away. Ninevah was probably the largest, most powerful city of the day, and also the most well-known for its wickedness. We aren't told the exact reason that Jonah rejected God's instructions to go and warn Ninevah, but we do know that he hopped a ship headed in the most opposite direction possible.

I will resist the temptation to retell the story, it's a small book only four chapters long and worth taking the time to re-read if it's been awhile. Instead, I'll ask you to join me in pondering a few questions for ourselves, such as:

Is there something I know that God wants me to do or a place He's asked me to go that I've ignored?

Am I asleep (spiritually) as Jonah was while the storm raged, yet kidding myself that all is well?

Would I be so bold (or stupid) as to reject God's direction for my life in favor of my own?

Can someone run from God and arrive at any destination that they'd ultimately desire or find fulfilling?

I read somewhere that when you run away from the Lord, you never reach your destination and you always pay your own fare, but when you go the Lord’s way you not only get to where you are going, He pays the fare.

In my own life, I've found that to be so true. Surrender to His plans yields contentment, or at the very least, peace, but running from Him, heartache and woe.

Interestingly, God did not intervene to prevent Jonah from boarding the ship to Tarshish, He just made the voyage miserable. Are you suffering miserably right now? Maybe you're on the wrong ship, heading in the wrong direction and ignoring that still small voice that promises you peace.

Father, order our steps, direct our paths and give us the courage to go where you lead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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