“Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah … saying,Arise, go to Nineveh…” But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord,and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish.”
Here’s a confession. I hear but don’t always listen.
To hear is to use your auditory senses. When you hear, you do so with your ears. When you listen, you take it to the next level. What you hear becomes the center of attention. To listen is all about focus, concentration, and tuning in to the broadcast. The conversation gets clearer.
On the other hand, human frailty is something like this: even when God speaks, we sometimes don’t listen. Thus, my recent Jonah moment. In the Old Testament narrative, God spoke clearly and Jonah went the opposite way.
I can sympathize with Jonah. I think I know how he felt. In my own self-created “situation,” I was on the boat leaving Joppa, heading for Tarshish when I knew perfectly well I should be in Nineveh.
And, no, it wasn’t sheer disobedience. I never refused to do what God said. In fact, I pledged to do exactly what God instructed, just not right now. The conversation went something like this: “OK, Lord, I heard You. But I’ll be right back. Just let me run over here for a second and do this first.” It was a small request, I hardly thought He would notice I was missing.
From that moment, I was leaning into a headwind—the kind of gust that sucks the air out of your lungs. Two choices were involved and I picked the option that I favored. The result: a mess.
Choosing to do what we want is always prideful, self-centered and disobedient. We learn quickly that we can’t run away from doing as God instructs, Jonah-style. Nor can we quietly saunter away, full of logical explanations, like me. Whether you end up getting thrown overboard in a fierce typhoon or simply have your eyebrows knocked askew by a powerful gust of wind, God’s message is clear. Stop doing what you want to do. The plan we choose can never be as effective or successful as the plan God chooses for us.
Listen and learn.
Living in everyday joy doesn’t make you immune to making regretful decisions. It does give you peace in every mess. You cultivate the ability to pray and ask God to send a taxi…or a whale…going in the right direction. God honors us when He graces us with a work that becomes a blessing to someone else. In the end, just turn around and pray for deliverance whenever you feel that messy wind start to blow.