Confession: I’m Jonah.
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.”
Spiritual growth isn’t steady. It moves in fits and starts. But lately I have felt stuck, pulled in opposite directions. I haven’t been able to overcome it or move forward.
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, as I wrote on my recent post for Deeper Story, 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. I ran from what God called us to do.
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.”
May I share a tip? You 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 serve myself or serve God, and serving God means 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. Not only have I not done what God has asked me to do, but sometimes I’ve actually undone it.
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 just soak in them for awhile.