Tuesday, November 11, 2008

swallowed whole

i've been doing some praying lately and i realized something. i ask a lot of God. last week i was asking him for healing for my niece. and i was also asking him to help Loralai's snot subside and for her cold to hit the road so that sleep will be restored. and i was asking him to continue to provide for our family, financially. and i was asking him what i could make for dinner - other than chicken or quesadillas (b/c time is of the essence and my creative cooking brain just is, apparently, not). and i was asking him to soften the hearts of a few people i love, so that they will please turn away from what the world says (ie: most often dr. phil and oprah) and turn to Him - for the first time and for some, just for good. and i was praying that the difficult circumstances that some of us are in would restore our love for God and i was asking him to help me to see the good in the times that seem, on the outside, to be hopeless or just discouraging.

and then, i sat down with that bible of mine and i prayed. i realized that i was asking a lot of God. and i realize that simply because God is God, he gets to do as he pleases. and so, here i went again, asking God to please help me to rest in knowing that the decisions he makes - the prayers that seem unanswered - are at his mercy and within his perfect will. help me to know that when i don't get everything i want - that THAT is perfectly perfect.

and as i was praying - and asking - and seeking - God gave me the book of jonah. and oddly enough, do you know i don't even think i've read it. i just know about jonah and what he went through. and maybe i've read bits and pieces here and there but i never sat down and read it and chewed on it for a while. but this is what i read:

chapter 2 (NIV)
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

"In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I
called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, 'I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.'
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my
To the roots of the mountains I sank
the earth beneath barred me in
But you brought my life up from the
O Lord my God.

"when my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

"Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the Lord."

And the Lord commanded the fish,
and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

After I read that, I had a definite sigh of relief moment. It reminded me of chapter 3 of Lamentations where God tells us that despite all of our shortcomings - his mercy is new every day. I was pretty overwhelmed by Jonah, at first. God doesn't imply that the belly of the whale/fish story is all a metaphor - he doesn't let up like Jesus does in giving explanation for his stories. This story is told as what really occurred. And so I thought about how Jonah was pleading with God saying - God, you threw me into the ocean and let the waves kick my butt. i thought i was going to die and so despite my earlier denial of you and running from your asking me to confront people on your behalf, i bit my pride and called out to you to please forgive me and have mercy on me. i asked you, when i thought i was going to die, if you would please spare me so that i might be able to hold true to the promises i had made to you. and i realized that you would do anything just to get my attention - like toss my sorry toosh into the ocean where a giant fish would nearly eat me.

Re-read the passage again. And if you don't believe the fish to be true - read it as this: God will use ANYTHING to bring us to him. He will allow us to return to the same sin over and over again if it is the only way that we will be knocked down, continually, so that our posture is humbled and we are desperate for his intervention - for his mercy, love and grace. But God says, through Jonah, that if we will quit with the mess - quit thinking Dr. Phil and Oprah are the wisest of wise, if we'll quit turning to food for comfort, to alcohol for confidence, to working out so that our bodies are beautifully carved rather than healthy, to books that tell us that cheating is ok because our spouses got boring or uninteresting, to the comfortable answer that says that divorce is appropriate because our spouse just didn't have the same visions as us in life - God says that if we will quit making excuses for where we fall short, and simply loose ourselves of the baggage that we're holding onto that's making our ears def to him, our hearts hard to him and our eyes blind to him - that then, he will put us back on solid ground. On dry ground that is easier to walk upon.

He'll bring us up out of the belly of that whale. But unless we choose to let go of the junk we like sitting in, God will let us sit there for as long as it takes. Because as much as it is that we think that God loves us - he wants us to love him back. He doesn't want to be the only one pouring out the love - he wants a relationship.

He wants to hear about all my insane thoughts, my crazy prayers about dinner and sucking snot out of my baby's nose - because really, when the chips are up or down - the only one who can truly have the glory for my life, and over my life, is the one who created it.

So I'm going to start thinking about this Jonah a little more. And I'm thankful that God led me to one of the shortest books in the bible to read - on a night when my attention span was puny - so that I might be let in on one of the biggest secrets he shared: mercy. grace. love.

It's all ours, if we'll just resign to letting go and letting God be God. Isn't it sweet, ya'll?