This post expresses the turmoil I found myself in during March of 2011. As I read it again tonight, I was struck by how sure I was that I needed to do something or go somewhere. Indeed, a few months later, God did send me somewhere very far away for a short trip. But lately I think that God wants me to learn to abide, to find rest and contentment where I am instead of striving to be somewhere else. But the struggle between my prideful goals and the service asked of me remains the same.
I’ve been looking for God for a long time.
I’ve written many times about discovering that my faith was built on a flawed foundation and starting over. I’ve written about rebuilding and about being made new, and my daily prayer, “God, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Then, this week I finally saw it.
I have been running from God, just like Jonah.
I know, it makes no sense. How can someone look for God and run away from him at the same time?
Several years ago, my husband and I answered the call to help renew a church that had fallen on hard times. We joined three other families and dove into ministry. My husband served as worship leader and elder for five years. We worked hard, and we were happy to do so. But the demands of special-needs motherhood combined with church ministry, lack of spiritual food, and the unique kind of pain inflicted by interpersonal challenges, drained me almost lifeless.
When we closed the doors of that church, I couldn’t get away from ministry fast enough. I didn’t want to do that again. Ever. It was hard, and it hurt. And to be brutally honest, I was angry that God put us in that situation.
So I ran into hiding, and I’ve been hiding out (as much as one can and still write a public blog, that is) ever since.
I told myself that because my husband was no longer a leader in a church, I was off the hook. That I didn’t need to worry about all that people-are-watching-you, you’re-a-role-model responsibility. I believed that now I could do what I want. Say what I want. Write what I want. Not worry about what anyone else thought because no-one was watching anyway.
I essentially told God out of one side of my mouth “I love you and I will serve you with my life” and out of the other, “…but I will do what I want, when I want, my way.”
But we don’t get to do that forever. God is patient and merciful, but he also moves in the lives of his children to remind us who we are and who he is and that he has something planned for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.) I can either horde the talents and skills God gave me or I can share them by taking the job he hands to me.
I’m not literally in the belly of a fish, of course. (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get good internet service there.) But the turmoil, the feeling pulled apart, has been about me running away. Rebelling. I’ve underestimated how many are watching and are alternately encouraged or discouraged by my choices.
I have to face facts. God is not letting me off the hook. I’m here on his mission, not mine. That means going where he says to go, even if it’s difficult, even if it hurts, even if it’s the last thing in the world I would choose for myself. He promises to give us what we need for the tasks he assigns.
Even better, he promises peace and joy when we obey. I’d really like to find both of those and marinate in them for awhile.
When have you identified with Jonah? How did God get your attention?