Scoot Over, Jonah

I’m right behind you!

Why is it that we wait until the seas are turbulent and the waves are crashing before we finally hit our knees and ask God for help? Man, we’re stupid! At least, I know I can be. Maybe you’re not and if that’s the case, please let me know your secret.

I recently had a situation where I truly felt like I was drowning. Even now, there are days when I cough up water and my chest aches from the pain. Life went to crap. Plain and simple. Family warred against family, businesses split, and walls were built- literally. I spent two days nailing up pickets so that I could block myself in and keep others out.

How did it all start? Well, I decided to save the day, of course. It’s my nature to fix things for people. I have an empathetic spirit and when I sense someone’s pain or frustration or desperation, I want to help. I want to get in there and make it all better. Unfortunately, that’s not always the best practice.

Things went down hill from there. Which is usually what happens when we try to tell God how to fix situations in our lives. I see such a tiny speck of the world and He sees everything. Yet, somehow I thought I was smart enough to tell the creator of the universe how this problem should be fixed. My solution was to step away from what God called me to do and step into a role I had no business filling.

See, I believe with all my heart that God called me to write. I may not be the next big thing, but within my soul is a desire to create stories that transport the reader away from reality, if only for a short while. I understand the need for that blissful reprieve from being JoAnna: mother, wife, daughter, business woman. Escaping into a good novel is one of my life’s simple pleasures. Years ago, I knew God was calling me to give that same gift to others.

Just like Jonah, I ran from that calling out of fear for quite a while. I was taught to get a real job, one that came with a weekly paycheck and stability. Artsy-fartsy hobbies were nice, but they didn’t deserve as much attention as a true career in the real world. And being a writer meant that someone might actually READ something I’d written–EEEEEK! OMG!

What if they didn’t like it? What if it sucked? What if, what if, what if, what if…

All the while, God was there, gently pushing me in the right direction. He said, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.” Philippians 4:6.

I prayed about publishing. I prayed about what I wrote and just as promised, God’s wholeness settled me down. Ten books later, I’m glad that I didn’t give in to worry and doubt. Through the process, He showed me that when I follow His guidance, my steps were ordered.

Right up until I pulled a Jonah! (You know it’s bad when your name becomes a verb…just sayin.)

Jonah didn’t want to obey. He didn’t want those people to be redeemed or saved because he thought they were bat-crap crazy. (They needed Jesus, so I would assume that is a safe description.) He kindly tipped his hat, said peace out, and went somewhere else. As my redneck husband would say, “He gone.”

Yep, that was me! I know what you told me, God, I do. But see, I know these people and they need me to fix their issues. I know you said to keep your nose out of it. I heard you. But you clearly don’t understand what it takes to deal with this, Lord. I’ll do it my way. Thanks.

That, my friends, is how I ended up in my proverbial whale, surrounded by stinking junk of my own making. I ran from God’s directions. I did it my way. I failed.

One of my friends even asked me, “Jo, do you remember what happens to people who run from God?”

I broke down crying and said, “I don’t want to get eaten by a fish!”

It was too late by then. I was already sitting side-by-side with Jonah. Idiots, both of us.

Aren’t you thankful that God doesn’t leave us in our crap? Woohoo!

Just like Jonah, I cried out for help. There was no way I could do this on my own. My family was suffering, my finances were pathetic, my friends were worried. I was in a pit of my own making with no way out.

The thing that hits me about Jonah’s story is that he was puked up after he cried for help. Do you remember that little detail? He didn’t float miraculously on a cloud from the open, clean mouth of the beast he’d tamed, wearing white and his hair blowing in the wind. He was spewed like rancid meat. Gross!

Even after we ask the Lord for help, even after we cry out and lay it down at His feet, we still have to climb out of the crap we’ve created. It’s not always a swift clean up. There is no clapper for miracles. I’ll be honest, I’m still peeling off the seaweed and fish bones. I might even stink a little. Sorry.

But Jonah and I have one thing in common: We’ve both vowed to do what God has told us. God told me to write, and I think this is a great time to remember that calling. It just so happened that as I had this epiphany, my wonderful friends asked me to be on this blog. Funny how God works, isn’t it?

The rest of Jonah’s story is pretty interesting. You should read it. He’s a stubborn fellow. I guess I’ll have to see how much more we have in common as the days pass. Who knows, maybe I’ll see a great host of people turning towards the Lord because I obeyed? Wouldn’t that be sweet!?

**JG**

 

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