i am the moon with no light of my own / still You have made me to shine
and as i glow in this cold dark night / i know i can't be a light unless i turn my face to You
- sara groves, "You are the sun"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the beauty of defiance (part 2)

a couple years ago, i had a beautiful flatmate from another country. when she moved here, she did not really know God -- she came from a country that strictly controls religion, and her knowledge of Jesus was limited to whatever the government deemed safe enough for the people to know. and she had lots of questions; she was eager to know as much as i could tell her about God, even if she was simply curious and wasn't quite buying in for her own faith (yet).

what an opportunity, right?! someone living in my very apartment who was eager to hear me talk about my faith and my Savior?

yeah, except i blew it. i squandered so many opportunities, it's ridiculous. while i did take advantage of a handful of conversations, most of the rest of the time i avoided them, telling myself that i was stressed out from work or the timing wasn't right. i helped her connect to others who could share about God instead of me, and i withheld even a friendly "hello" many days when i was just in a "bad mood".

i'm not so unlike jonah, it turns out.

yesterday, we talked about jonah's multiple acts of defiance. sure, jonah is ultimately running away from preaching to nineveh like God commanded him (Jonah 1:1-2), but what really stuck out to me from this story is that he is also refraining from sharing about his God with anyone else around him.

jonah was placed on a ship with some sailors who didn't know God, and we see them scrambling and doing everything they know to do in the middle of a terrible tempest:
- they cried out to their own gods, and
- they dumped whatever they could find off the ship to lighten the load (Jonah 1:5)
- they asked jonah to pray to his god (Jonah 1:6)
- they rolled some dice to try to figure out whose fault it was (Jonah 1:7)
- at the end, they even asked jonah what they should do (Jonah 1:11)

how often are the people around us scrambling like this, crying out to gods of this world, dumping whatever baggage they can and even turning to chance or fate for an unattainable solution -- and we don't listen because we are down in the holds of our own ships, sleeping soundly with our salvation hugged tightly in our arms?

i always thought this story was primarily about jonah. while it turns out that this story is actually primarily about God, i think this first chapter may be even more about these sailors than it is about our favorite bible story escape artist.

it seems that God has it in mind to save these men too -- and perhaps he uses jonah's defiance to do it. because without jonah's defiance, and without the ensuing storm, and without his confession (Jonah 1:10), and without his (reluctant) testimony (Jonah 1:9), i'm not certain these gentlemen would have experienced the Mercy and Grace that awaited them.

jonah isn't the only one who is defiant in this story. even after jonah tells them to throw him overboard, an "instead" and a "but" await the sailors:
"instead, the men did their best to row back to land. but they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before." - jonah 1:13

so what did they do? they cried out to *jonah's God* to forgive them for throwing jonah overboard. (a note, dear readers: these guys had only one recorded act of rebellion prior to turning to a God they had just heard about and didn't even believe in. let's not even try to stack that up against jonah's track record. i think i need to learn a thing or two from them.)

then, after dumping their passenger and the subsequent calming of the waters, they "greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to Him." - jonah 1:16

this would be the part where i jump up and down for joy! because, despite as a result of jonah's defiance, these men were saved. God had them covered all along. and i think He knew they needed to try everything else -- even rowing ashore after the solution was presented -- before they could throw up their hands to the only One who could do anything about it. if God either ordains or allows everything, i have to believe that He allowed jonah to escape to that very boat in order to capture the attention of these sailors (as well as heal jonah's own heart). He also allowed jonah to continue his temper tantrum up to his point of sacrifice, giving these sailors an opportunity to get to the end of their ropes.

and, He allowed me to continue to defy Him with my beautiful flatmate, knowing that He would provide for her through other relationships, and knowing that He would secure her salvation no matter what. one of the most precious conversations i got to have with her was when she was struggling with praying a prayer of trust and repentance to give her heart to Jesus, wanting to go out and do it alone in a forest rather than in front of others. (i told her she could do it wherever she wanted to and God would still hear her, but that she might consider doing it in the presence of friends so they could support and celebrate with her -- all the while suppressing my excitement and pretending that i wasn't at all thinking about jumping up and down and giving her a big hug.) maybe that conversation was like my jonah moment, though i don't really think so, because all i was doing was riding the waves of all the work God and the other faithful servants in her life had already done. sometimes God blesses us like that when we definitely don't deserve it.

the truth is, i did play the perfect part in her salvation story, even if i can look back and find a million ways i could have done it better -- because, she did pray that prayer, and she did start living her life for the Lord. (hallelujah! hugs and jumping all over the place.) and, while i can't quite see it now, i wouldn't be surprised to find out that my defiance in that case was exactly what drove her to build those relationships that would unlock her heart to a relationship with her Savior. i will only know when i meet the Good Shepherd face to face, and it's definitely on my list of questions to ask Him.

isn't it amazing to think that God would use even our defiance to bring about His Glory? 

truly, this story (of jonah, the bible, our lives) is about Him, and He uses us even up to and including our defiance. and He wouldn't do it any other way. how do i know this? because He didn't -- and God's ways are always perfect.

many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's Purpose that prevails. 
- proverbs 19:21

note: or even beyond that point -- see a fellow #SheSharesTruth blogger's post for a very interesting take on whether this was sacrifice or continued selfishness.


this post is part of an experiment called #SheSharesTruth from shereadstruth.com. many brilliant women have contributed their own learnings from these same two chapters -- won't you check out some of their posts too?

No comments:

Post a Comment

thank you for your thoughts. and thank you for taking the time to share them.