You can run, but you can’t hide!

Forgive me for saying so, but it seems that we have ostensibly wrecked the point of the book of Jonah. Our poor Sunday school children walk away with little more than the coolness of being swallowed alive by a whale then spit out three days later. I mean, what kid doesn’t like a fantastical story about being in the stinky, rotten belly of a fish, then getting spit back out onto land- alive!

Perhaps we grown-ups have held on a little too tightly to our old “Jonah and the Whale” story ideas- and we’ve missed the lessons as well.

Reading through the book this week, these lessons struck me right between the eyes. {Yes, the miracle of God keeping Jonah alive in the digestive system of a great fish is well, amazing (gross, but amazing, none the less).}

BUT here is the MORE AMAZING part: God takes a rebel like Jonah and teaches him about His sovereignty and saving grace. Jonah is the perfect legalist- he has all the right answers, but not the right motives.  He knows what obedience looks like, but willfully chooses to disobey instead.

This is so me at moments! Is this you? Do we run and hide from God, hoping to get out of doing what He wants us to? Thinking that just maybe, He is okay with our “secret” sins or perhaps a little willful assertion of  “I am master of my life” from time to time? Run we can. Hide we can’t.

God loves us and will relentlessly pursue us to come back to Him. Jonah recognizes and admits this while praying inside the fish: “Salvation comes from the LORD.”  Maybe the stench had got to him, but he humbles himself, recognizes that he was saved from certain death and that he better get serious about obeying. You know the story: he is projectile vomited out onto land. Whew!

Out of the fish and into the city:

Legalist Jonah, all high and mighty with his word from God, does finally obey and goes to do what he was supposed to in the first place. He tells the people of Nineveh to repent and would you believe it, they do, all of them from greatest to least?! Jonah is so happy and thankful to the Lord- NOT! He gets angry about that. Like, why would God save THOSE PEOPLE?! Again, he knows the right answers: “You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…”, but he balks against the justice and sovereignty of God.

But that isn’t the last of it.

In the final chapter, Jonah goes out with a rather inconclusive bang. He sits down to pout about things. (Do you ever pout about God’s doings? Nah. Me neither!) It’s hot as heck. God brings a vine for refreshing shade. I can just see Jonah’s smug smile and hear his self-congratulatory, “ahhhh, finally things are going my way!”. Then a worm eats the vine and not only that, a scorching hot wind comes a-blowin’! Jonah wishes death on himself, he is so boiling with anger. In his final act of disobedience, we hear Jonah still trying to make himself master of his destiny and complaining against the justice of God in saving the city of Nineveh.

Not every story has a neat and tidy, moral ending. (And we don’t tend to like those stories.) But I love the book of Jonah because I am so like him- a struggler in my own right, continually needing to come to God, be forgiven by Him, be chided by Him, be reminded of His sovereign rule in my life, that He alone saves us by His GRACE, that He gives and takes away for a purpose, and that I can run but I will never hide from God. He knows me, He loves me, and He wants me to love him passionately and do His will, not my own.

I am just so glad that I didn’t have to float around in the dark, stinking, half-digested stomach bile of a fish to figure that out!!!

unraveling…

unraveling….

Like a loosely woven skein of yarn, some days I come undone.

It can be nothing in particular sometime. I just wake up feeling as if little devilish imps are tugging yards out of me. (Do they come in the night to torment me all day?)

Or some days, it is the rebellious taunt made by my son that he is moving out at 12:01 the day of his 18th birthday- a fresh twist of the proverbial rebel’s knife and my emotions well up, uncontrollably.

Even other days, it is the thought that I have NO IDEA WHAT THE FUTRUE HOLDS FOR OUR FAMILY. Will we move again for the 11th time in 20 years? (Long story for another post, I promise). The gypsy lifestyle runs so CONTRA to my personal bents. Yet, it would seem to be God’s comical way of keeping me supple, humble, detached from the material “stuff” of life and even people if you will.

I sometimes think, “OK, God, am I REALLY that hard headed, that you need to keep driving the SAME lessons home to me?”

~ Here’s a “need to know” about me: I used to cry almost daily. I have also struggled majorly with depression in the past (yes, another post about this one too). But, as I have been worked like taffy in a “puller”, God has seen fit to stabilize my emotional roller coaster a bit. For that, I am truly humbled and thankful every day.~

Despite this, the unraveling is SO unpleasant. And it’s not like I sit by idly watching it happen! I fight it. I pray. I dig in mentally and remember the words of God that He does not give me more than I am able to bear or that He never leaves me or forsakes me. I cast my cares on Him and wait. And some days honestly, I feel nothing. Is this all a big joke? Doesn’t He (or anyone for that matter) see what’s happening to me?

Maybe it is God Himself wrenching out pieces of me – a purposeful discomfort, a test of my control freakish nature- to make me into someone different, better??

I am conflicted. For if my beautiful yarn were being woven into a lovely shawl or intricate blanket, I would feel satisfied, happy even. But I DO NOT see the string’s end! All I feel is the tug. I don’t comprehend the purpose!

This is the essence of my faith-  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

However it is being yanked from me, I conclude that all I can do is trust the elusive picture I cannot see. If I balk and try to tuck it’s length back in, I will fail. You know you can never wind the yarn back the way it was. If I let it go, even allow the extraction to happen, I have to rest in God’s providential work, however painful the process.

He is the skilled weaver and can make the gnarled, knotted, yards of string into something beautiful in His time.

unraveling for a purpose…

Be Still My Heart (or how I fell in love)- part 2

He "put a ring on it"! May 15, 1993
He “put a ring on it”!
May 15, 1993

After recovering from what was a moment of shock over our age gap, my next thought was, “Oh boy, what would my parents do if they knew how old he is? Doubtful they will let me go out with him again. They have always told me to watch out for older guys!” Surprisingly, when I did return home later that night, I climbed into my mom’s side of the bed and told her all about my evening. Her response? “You are going to marry that boy!” 

Our first date led to a second. This time we went to the beach on a blustery fall day. We talked and talked and talked some more. Then he took me to a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory overlooking the Marina Del Rey harbor. I tried pinching myself because this seemed like something from a dream. He was way too kind and godly. He treated me like a perfect gentleman- something I had never experienced before in my short dating life.

I was scared. He was “too good to be true” kind of a thing.  After a month, I felt myself falling for this guy, badly. He invited me to our school’s Christmas musical and that’s when I dropped the “I just want to be friends” bomb.  What else could I do? I wasn’t prepared for these kinds of feelings and I wanted to run away from them. Besides, falling in love didn’t fit into my career future.

I figured with that declaration, he would move on. His friends told him to be done with me. But (the little problem was) I still had to see him everyday- in class, in the library, all over campus. And here is where the story changes: in every encounter after that fateful evening, he was STILL kind, STILL thoughtful, STILL a gentleman, STILL forgiving. He didn’t shun me or give me the silent treatment. He didn’t shoot me hateful looks or send rude notes.

My heart was in angst. I wanted NOT to be attracted to him, but I found the very opposite happening. His character and godly attitude in the face of my selfish immaturity literally stunned me. Is he for real? I mean, who does this when a girl has written him off? Sure, maybe he was just being a persistent guy, but it was more than that. He showed me how to behave when someone treats you badly. He exemplified love in a way that no one else had ever done.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself inexplicably drawn to him. I slowly began to relish every moment we were in the same room. I hoped we’d “bump into each other” so we could talk again. Before he left for home over Christmas break, he slipped a flower and card into my on-campus mailbox. My heart went pitter-patter again- this time for all the right reasons- all the reasons that go beyond physical attraction or first date “schmooziness”.

And as they say, “The rest is history”.

Well, not really because this is real life and not some pie-in-the-sky fairytale romance. Yet, despite all the complexities of human relationships (and trust me when I say, we’ve had some VERY MESSY, stinking rotten, sinful moments), twenty two years later, I am still in love with this “for real” guy. He has proven to be a friend that loves in all times- good/bad, happy/sad. He STILL charms my heart with his thoughtful character and he is STILL pretty dang good-looking too! 🙂

Newton Shmooton

Newton’s third law of motion states:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is true in physics AND in parenting teenagers.

You push, they pull. You apply force, they resist. You bear down, they buoy up to the surface, gasping for air.

Often times, the very thing we try, try, try so hard to coax out of or impress into our teens seems to snap back on us like a rubber band to the skin. It stings. We’re hurt. The lesson gets lost like a rock in quicksand and we are left feeling void- void of hope that they will ever be different.

From day one when baby comes bouncing into the world, we look at he or she like a ball of clay. There they are all moist and fresh, sitting on the potter’s wheel, just waiting to be shaped. Away we go with our tools and hands: molding, carving, pinching, pulling, stretching, pounding. So often we go at the clay with past regrets of our own past mistakes. Other times we are angry, rough and impatient because it will just not cooperate. Then sometimes, it is so pliable, easily molding into the perfect, smooth masterpiece we had envisioned.

There are many moments when we forget who should really be sitting at the wheel. We put ourselves in the chair, thinking we are the potter- and in one sense we are. Our children are largely shaped by us- our ideals, our personalities, our passions, our dislikes, our philosophies, our methods.

But nothing seems farther from the truth when they are about to embark on their own journey called life.  No matter what forces we have applied, they are moved more by who they have become and less by what you hoped, planned or tried to make them be.

God is the Potter of every human soul. He fashions and shapes the clay of humanity in His time and in His ways.  And He is the MOST EXCELLENT POTTER of all! His vessels are always perfectly fit for His plan and purpose.