“What would make you run from God?”
A pastor asked us this question one Sunday as he began a series on the person of Jonah, the poster prophet for running from God.
The pastor suggested we might be tempted to run from a calling to another country, maybe one where westerners aren’t welcome. I found myself surprised that a specific location hadn’t even crossed my mind.
No, for me it’s not “please don’t call me to that place.” My “places” are more internal. Maybe I’m not alone.
We are, at the core, self-centered people, which is the heart of the book of Jonah. God was calling him not just to a place, but to a surrender of the heart. That, maybe more than Nineveh, was the place he didn’t want to go.
So he ran toward Tarshish. Not sure what made Tarshish so appealing. Me, I run too, but in smaller, less obvious ways (because I don’t know how to get to Tarshish).
I run by staying busy, too busy to reflect on my heart, too busy to hear from God.
I run until I feel I’ve given enough, done enough, been enough.
I run from insignificance, from feeling small or forgotten.
I run from silence, where I might encounter emotions or truth I don’t want to own.
I run from being exposed to God, or more aware of my sin, is not a place I want to be.
All places where He is calling me to surrender, to let go of what I cling to that I think is life.
I want Him to call me somewhere else, some place where I look good and successful and admirable, and I don’t have to own the mess inside.
God calls us to places of surrender in order to do a deeper work in us. For Jonah, it was a big fish for three days. I can’t say how grateful I am that God has never felt He needed to throw me in a whale to get my attention.
For me, it’s places of unanswered prayer, unexpected disappointment, unmet desire, loneliness, trials. Those are places we would rather not be, but they are the places where God can bring us to the surrender that needs to happen for us to go deeper in Christ and further in mission.
This was a good reminder for me, to ask myself whether I am willing to sit in the places where He takes me, rather than trying to scramble out to a more pleasant existence. I need to surrender to His work within me.
What about you? Are you running from Him, or are you surrendering to His work?