Sunday, June 1, 2014

The New Jonah

In my life, I have found myself drawn to the book of Jonah over and over.  In times of difficult ministries I found myself encouraged, in times of deep despair his prayer has had real meaning.  His is a story that I totally relate to, and totally loathe all at once. I find myself wondering at Jonah simply not doing what God told him to, when he told him to go. Lately, though, I have been questioning my ability to procrastinate, and whether it is really just me running from God's will.

The longer I think on it the more I come to see that the answer is a resounding 'YES'.

I'm thankful that he doesn't send a big fish after me, because that would scare the crud out of me. I have to say, though, that I have been in some big ole stinky situations because of my lack of action.  I have always felt that since Jonah was being more deliberate in his disobedience that it was a worse transgression than my pretending that days aren't passing, that there is always a chance to do it right. I can't see that there is any difference.  I mean, the result is always the same: I end up in the opposite place of where God wants me. Period.

I always act like procrastination happens by accident, too, as if I were not consistently choosing other things over what I should be doing.  Even worse, I act like I am forced to keep choosing to do what I want to do rather than what I feel God is urging me to do. I use my husband and my family as reasons for  why I am not doing what I know I should be doing.

Many times I find myself choosing to do the easy stuff of Christianity. Leading bible studies for Christians, spending time with fellow Christians, and praying for other Christians. Those are good things, necessary things, but they are not the only things I should be doing.

The fact is I have become comfortable with complacency when it comes to my faith. I have lost my sense of urgency, placed my mind on other things, and forgotten how it felt when I first felt God's Spirit stirring within me.

That Jonah of the Old Testament, he ran from the Lord and then took a nap in the bottom of his ship. I was being super judgy, ripping Jonah for not even losing sleep over his decision to do the complete opposite of what his God asked of him, when a friend said, "What if he was just depressed?  I see that sometimes, in people who just can't care anymore. They're really just depressed."

Huh. I had never thought of it that way because I was too busy judging him and thinking that I was nothing like him. I wonder if my friend was on to something. I do not believe it is our natural human state to simply not care. I believe we have to talk ourselves into that state, or dull our minds through t.v. watching and internet scrolling, or in simply keeping ourselves extremely-busy-doing-very-important-things in order to be able to not fully feel the effects of caring.  Once our minds have been thoroughly dulled it becomes easier to be inactive.  A saying that always makes me uncomfortable  is 'if the devil can't win you over he'll keep you busy'.

I look busy, doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but in my heart I know that I am inactive when it comes to what God wants me to do.  Jonah got on a boat and went in the opposite direction, but I stay right where I am and allow myself to believe the lie that because I am in constant motion I'm not going in the wrong direction.

My heart does not lie, though. I am as asleep as Jonah was in the bottom of the ship.

I am the new Jonah, and I fear it is the disease of the Church.

I may be rambling, but I feel like something is about to explode inside of me. I've been reading all manner of books about people who sacrifice for God, for His people to know Him better.  Books* that make me say to myself, "Well that's good for them, but it won't work for me. I can't go to Africa (or fill in the blank with any country). People here don't know that kind of hunger so they'll never need Jesus like they do in other countries." or the worst "My family is my ministry."

I only say those things to myself to tamp down the fire that starts in my soul and makes me want to feed thousands with two loaves and a couple of fish. I only say those things to myself so that I can sleep at night as I sail further and further away from the young woman who fell in love with Jesus. I only say those things so that I can look my children in the eye when I walk away from someone without telling them about the Living Water that will quench their thirst forever.

In all of this, I am not fishing for compliments or pats on the back. Those of you who know me in real life know that there have been sacrifices made, that there have been times I have put myself out there in order for another human being to get to know my God.  I just feel like I checked it off the list.  Somehow sharing Christ became a goal I had fulfilled and not a way of life and I am tired of it. I am tired of sitting in church and missing what it felt like to feel God's fire rise up in me, making me feel like I could do anything for Him because He had done everything for me.

I have had it with believing that I do enough, or that I deserve a rest, or that because I was born into an easier life than some that I have earned it.  It's just not that easy any more. I don't know what it means, these feelings I have rumbling around in me, but I know that I cannot keep moving about in the world this way. I am thankful that I remember what it felt like to be truly alive, to know that while I might not change someone's life, I could certainly introduce them to the One who can make all things new.

I am praying that following God's Spirit is like discovering a pair of forgotten gloves. At first they feel tight and restrictive, then with use and stretching they feel right and good.

This evening, as I type, there is a thunderstorm right outside of my window.

I am not sleeping.

 Awake, O sleeper
rise up from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.
Ephesians 4:19

*Books like Kisses for Katie, Crazy Love, Whatever Happened to Worship, and Christian Atheist, The Hiding Place.


  1. This went so well with the Semen that my preacher gave on Sunday it was almost eerie. You have a way with words and they are quite eloquent and you are quite with what you have said. Being a Christian means putting ourselves out there everyday and telling not just people we know about our faith but those that we don't I order to share our love for Christ. Being complacent is not an excuse for any of us.

  2. Hi Kara,

    It's good for us to be shaken up, and stirred into action. There are so many ways that we can obey Jesus in loving others, caring for the orphan and widowed, and those who need advocates, and definitely in reminding us of the sense of urgency and joy in telling others about God's rescues and desires for us.

    I've read Kisses for Katie, The Hiding Place, and The Hiding Place. Have you read George Mueller's autobiography? You should! As well as The Narrow Road, and God''s Smuggler.

    Jennifer Dougan