Saturday, October 3, 2009

Unpack like it's camp.

There is so much that I would like to unpack from this passage (as I said in the last post), but since this is not my diary, but a blog, I will only unpack a little. It's like when you are spending a summer at camp, and you know you have a lock box under your bed that you can store stuff (so you don't have to take everything home with you every single weekend). But actually, if you're like me you really only wore the same five outfits every week, and all the rest of your clothes stayed in the lock box virtually untouched for the whole summer. This may be a slight exaggeration...but the point is, while there is a lot that I would like to share about this particular passage, I think I will really only skim the surface, and take out of it my favorite things.
Bad analogies aside, here are some thoughts on Jonah 1:17-2:10.

Where to start. Let's start with the fact that the Lord had given Jonah a task to do, and instead of doing the task, Jonah runs in the opposite direction, out to sea. This is in the first chapter of Jonah, before verse 17. Meanwhile the Lord causes a violent storm, and the people on the boat figure out the Jonah being on the boat is correlated with the storm. So they throw him overboard, and that is where we start, with verse 17:

Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah.

I love this. Not that I want to be swallowed by a great fish, even if it is one that the Lord arranges, but I love it. I love that Jonah cannot run from the Lord. God wants to get his attention, and Jonah is not listening, so God says, PAY ATTENTION!

A lot of times (this could be a mix of both currently and in the past, so please don't try to read this too deeply) I've known that I am right where God wants me to be, but I still feel overwhelmed with the task at hand. I often have felt under qualified, under prepared, or under...passionate about the place I am. This could be in places of ministry like camp, or it could be places where God has placed me for a time that have nothing to do with (traditional) ministry (but become my ministry, because that is the way I am wired).

Anyway, in the past, I have felt like, "Ok. I know this is where God wants me to be, but this just isn't my cup of tea. If I flake out though, I will be no better than Jonah...and we all know what happened when he flaked out." So I stick it out, and in hindsight, I can see that it really was where I was supposed to be.

Let's move on to the next verses (Chapter 2)

And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.
He said, "I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, 'O LORD, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.'
"I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD.
And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies.

But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the LORD alone."

Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

It has become apparent to me, in hindsight, that while I was in those "not my cup of tea" situations, that even though I was right where God wanted me to be, and I thought I was trying not to be like Jonah (flaking out), I was like Jonah. As I look back, I can see parts of my life where I was right where God wanted me to be, but it was in the belly of a great fish.

Remember? God arranged for the great fish to swallow Jonah. It was right where Jonah needed to be. It is really hard to avoid God when you are in the belly of a fish (this is coming from the one who can't even stand to think about the "fish section"* at the grocery store). It took him three whole days, but when Jonah finally cried out to God, and basically renewed his vows, then God ordered the fish to spit him back out again. Sometimes (or a lot of times), it takes a lot to get my attention. But after some time in a fish, after some time to cry out to God -- to regain remember who(se) you are...after that, you are then totally more equipped than you were before.

Jonah goes on to do the task that the Lord called him to do. He finally obeys...and when it doesn't go the way he expected, he is pissed at God (Joanh 3 and 4). How much am I like Jonah! But that is another story for another time. I have already unpacked enough for now.

*The fish section of the store. Here, in most grocery stores, in the place where you can get most meat, you can also get fish (I guess, also a meat). But the fish are in this huge tank, still living, just crammed in there. And they smell fishy. I can smell them several aisles away. Some days the smell is too much to bear, and my gag reflex kicks in. In all reality, if I were swallowed by a great fish, ...oh man, I don't even want to imagine it.

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