I wrote about Jonah on Kingdom Bloggers in February. Jonah again came to mind as I sipped some tea the other day, pondering which of the several dark times in my life could I share (most involve other people and I believe in treading carefully when publicly incorporating into our life stories what others may have done to us or we to them).
I have done what I call “the Jonah.” Jonah was a prophet in Old Testament times who tried to run away from what God wanted him to do. It is a laughable activity, trying to run away from the God of all creation: “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
It was just after my college graduation. I had longtime plans to move to England and try to find a job that fall (I have dual citizenship). I really did not have much of a plan, nor did I put a lot of prayer time into a discernment process. But, God was speaking. He cares about His children and, if we are listening, he is dropping clues all around us about His existence, His love, and His direction.
He gave me several clues through people and situations that the direction I was headed was not where he wanted me to be. My mother, a believer, was opposed to the trip, and we had some arguments over it. Of course, I thought she was all wet, and trying to rain on my parade of independence.
My mother did not think something terrible would happen if I went, she just doubted that it was the right time for this: I should stay in the U.S. and get a job here. She was disturbed that I was giving up a great paid summer internship for my trip that could have led to a permanent job: the company would not hire me for it, knowing I was moving to England that September.
Deep inside, through that summer, I felt a little niggling doubt about my trip. But I ignored it, telling myself that surely God wanted me to experience the “abundant life” Jesus talks about in the New Testament (that was my newbie Christian interpretation of “abundant life”). London would be a cool place to live, and I would be out of boring northern Connecticut. Why should I do a reversal on plans I had in mind for a year?
So, I left. I did “the Jonah.” Nothing terrible happened to me. But, I remember waking up one morning feeling strange, like my creative spark had fizzed out. I had always been writing and suddenly found I could not write a word. I knew God had not left me because of my disobedience, but I felt an absence. That was worse than my not being able to find solid work, or quickly running through my money. I enjoyed living with my aunt and hanging out with my cousins, but when you know you are not acting according to God’s will, even the enjoyable can’t convince you otherwise.
I made choices during the trip that I regret--ironically, I made them at the time because of the notion that one should not have any regrets in life, so try as many things as possible. What a lie that is, that traps many in its snare!
I returned to the U.S. just a tad older, but definitely wiser. I had learned how important prayer and discernment is to all of our decisions and choices, but also that even when we make mistakes or turn our backs on God, He waits for us. He may arrange a storm or two to get our attention. He may allow us to stumble. And when we turn back, He helps us back up and points us to the right path.