In 2016 was when I truly began feeling the pull of God after I hadn’t prayed or attended church for 7 years. My life was messy. I mean real messy. (Aren’t we all messy though without Him?) God had completely removed me from my old life and I was starting fresh. I mean this quite literally. I was in a new city, new job, new home. I was a foreigner in my own life. I left Columbus with only one person who was attempting to stay in contact with my life on a consistent basis, this was mostly due to him being a romantic interest. Luckily, he was very encouraging on the path I was on. I told him one day about how I just really didn’t know where to begin reading to bible. He agreed to help me by Facetiming me and he told me we were going to read of the Book of Jonah. It was a story I had read many times as a child or heard during vacation bible school in the summers. I didn’t really see how a story about a guy being swallowed by a fish was going to help me grow in my time with God, but reluctantly continued with the story till our mini bible study time was over (feeling like I probably didn’t get anything out of it).
But to really get to later points in my blog I feel like its necessary for me give you the Danielle short paraphrase version of this story (feel free to read the more thorough, Holy version, in your bible near you):
So there’s this prophet Jonah and God says to him, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come before me.” Jonah was not a fan of Nineveh or the ways of those people so he was like,”…Nah.” Instead he hopped on a boat to head to Tarsish (the complete opposite direction). Once on the boat he went to take a nap (in the Bible people like to sleep on boats a lot) and while he slept a huge windy storm brewed. The sailors were scared, praying to their different gods, and the captain yelled at Jonah for sleeping. He said, “Dude, how are you sleeping right now, start praying for your god to save us!” Jonah was like, “Oh yeah, I know whats going on. My God is pretty peeved at me. Just throw me overboard and the seas will calm. My bad guys.” So they threw him overboard and the seas calmed. (God has a hobby of showing how powerful he is by removing storms.) After being thrown overboard a big fish came and swallowed Jonah where he remained in time out for three days and three nights. While inside the big fish, Jonah prayed in desperation to God promising to fulfill His wishes to tell Nineveh of their harsh destiny if they don’t turn from their ways. The Lord told the fish that time out was over and the fish vomited Jonah up onto the land (thanks for the transportation God). So this dead fish smellin’, vomit covered dude Jonah, goes into Nineveh to tell them God is going to destroy them in 40 days. The king even heard of this news and proclaimed a fast. The Ninevites turned from their ways and God did not bring them destruction. Jonah headed to a place east where he could wait and see what God would do to the city. He had the best seat in the house with his extra large fountain drink and popcorn waiting for the show. When God didn’t destroy the city, Jonah threw a temper tantrum and even asked God to take his life (like I said, he really didn’t like the Ninevites).
There are many different thoughts and lessons that can be learned from this story. Callings, disobedience, second chances, grace, mercy, selfishness, anger, or….spiritual gifts. I’ve spent many days with God asking Him to help me recognize where my strengths and gifts are. Sometimes your greatest gift is the thing that comes very natural and you don’t notice. For me, mine is exhortation. I feel very passionately about encouraging others and help keep their fire burning. I also feel very passionate about people callings and helping hold them accountable to the heights that God has called them to. It is very hard for me to stand by a “Jonah” and listen to them complain or disregard the calling and purpose God has for them. But, at the end of the day we are all a Jonah. We all have a special calling whether we are supposed to travel to Nineveh, Haiti, Ireland, Peru, or our backyard to reach people and bring them hope. God uses our gifts to customize what our calling and purpose looks like.
I think the minimal thing we can do at least is respond. Just respond. Take the first step in obedience and let God work the rest out. Cause when its His will… then it will get done, you can best believe that. Even if it requires patience. The worst thing personally we can do is avoid God’s plan and make other plans instead. Jonah wasn’t fond of his calling either he would have MUCH rather hung out in Tarsish and hid from his calling. It didn’t turn out too good for him though.
Another thing we shouldn’t do is only talk about it. There absolutely requires action. Even if its simply our reaction and one step in that direction. Maybe for you that looks like preparation. Saving money, fasting, increasing your time in prayer, or maybe its just simply agreeing to do it. One time God told me to get my passport. Okay….so, he told me repeatedly for 3 months until I finally responded. I could have just kept telling people I’m supposed to get a passport and ask why repeatedly…or I could just simply do it and see what happens. It turned out I was going on a mission trip that quite frankly was life changing. Part of me didn’t want to get a passport cause it didn’t make sense, the other part of me didn’t want to because it was going to take time to fill out applications, photos, and money. By putting it off I was being lazy and disobedient. I wasn’t looking at this calling like it was a privilege but rather a burden or hassle. Proverbs talks a lot about laziness.
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” Proverbs 12:11
These are just a couple to list a few. Bottom line, the point is we don’t see the fruit of our calling if we don’t act on it or work. Jonah didn’t like the fruit of his calling…but because he finally agreed to God’s call he helped save a city from destruction! That certainly wouldn’t have happened if he would have been in Tarsish or chasing fantasies. God can use us to do so much for others if we aren’t consumed with, “What can God do for me?”
Last year I went to a conference called Love Is Red at my old church in Canton, Ohio, Faith Family Church. There were some moments during it that I swear I’ll never forget. We had a super powerful season with John Gray where the spirit was so thick I swear you were breathing it. When we eventually got to the sermon part of his session he said a very profound quote. Luckily it was live recorded and I could go back and listen to it over and over. It’s a quote with a point you’ve maybe heard before, but for some reason when he said it I was shook to the core.
“Sometimes you are the only bible that some people will ever read. If they read your life, will they want to know your Jesus? I will ask again for the people in the elevated places. If I didn’t open a bible, could I read Jesus from the pages of your life?”
I would hope if someone opened the pages of my life they wouldn’t see a Jonah, but rather see a Isaiah who says, “Here I am, send me!” Someone who is eager to be obedient and take the risk. Someone who sees serving as a honor and privilege.
I just want to leave you with a question.
Is there anything that you can do today to bring you closer to your calling? If so, I challenge you, take the risk.
Photo by Guille Pozzi