The focus of today’s church sermon was the story of Jonah. Basically, God sends Jonah on a mission to Nineveh. Jonah, being afraid, decides to disobey God, runs the opposite direction, encounters a massive storm, and gets eaten by a large fish. It is in the fish that Jonah starts praying to God and as soon as Jonah admits his disobedience, the large fish throws Jonah up and Jonah goes on to complete the missions (If have ever seen Pinocchio, there are huge Biblical allusions here).
The pastor pointed out how, despite Jonah’s disobedience, God continued to show his presence; the further Jonah ran away, the stronger God’s probing became, until Jonah literally could not get away from it (because he was stuck in the large fish’s belly). And, the pastor talked about God’s unfaltering forgiveness, but that we, as people, need to ask for that forgiveness. Despite Jonah’s disobedience, God still forgave him once Jonah repented.
Something I recently discovered about my faith is that, while God does have a plan for us, He also requires us to be active in that plan. We can’t be Dorian Gray’s, and run around, murdering people, and then ask God to simply forgive our sins. It is not just enough to ‘believe’ that God has a plan for us and at the end of our lives, when things haven’t gone quite as we expected, we throw up our hands and say, “Oh well”. We can’t just wait for our future spouse to just fall into our laps from out of thin air; we must be active in order for that plan to be executed.
I believe strongly in signs (totally a Ponderosa poms’ legacy). When I feel conflicted about a decision or uneasy about something going on, I always pray to God and ask to be sent a sign. I am learning, however, that just recognizing the sign is not enough.
So here is how I see the story of Jonah working out in my own life: Sometime ago, an individual (let’s call this individual Subject X) did something to make me very mad (what Subject X did is really irrelevant to this story). Of course, being a girl, I said some really mean things about Subject X. I called Subject X some bad names, made some really demeaning assumptions, tarnished a bit of Subject X’s reputation. I started feeling guilty, but then reminded myself of what a ‘terrible’ and ‘atrocious’ thing Subject X did to me. After that was over, as my mom pointed out is my tendency, I kind of said “EF YOU SUBJECT X”, put those mean things in the back of my head, and moved on with my life.
Life went on, I forgot completely about the situation. Then, one day, I started receiving what I now would consider ‘signs’. Uncoincidental things started happening: I met a slew of people who knew Subject X, I saw a bunch of bumper stickers and advertisements, etc. It was weird. Like, I even worked a wedding one night that played a very unfamiliar song, not once, but twice, that reminded me of the situation. I was so busy saying “EF YOU SUBJECT X” that I wasn’t paying attention to the signs God was sending me. The more I ignored these signs, the more I thought about it and the guiltier I felt.
One day, I couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “I SURRENDER” and decided to do something about it. I acknowledged that I was not very nice and repented. I would like to think that God was trying to tell me to let the universe and Subject X know I had forgiven Subject X for that not-so-mean thing. Immediately after, I stopped being bombarded by signs. I stopped feeling guilty. I even stopped thinking about it.
Of course, I did not encounter a life-threatening storm, and I certainly did not get eaten by a large fish (my worst nightmare), but the story of Jonah and obedience rings very true; God can send us all the signs we pray for, but it is our responsibility to recognize and put them into action.
This week, I am challenging myself to be more obedient; to pay attention to what God is telling me, and how I must actively pursue ‘my master plan’.