Well, I was hoping that I could write a lament like King David's, rising out of noble and righteous circumstances. "Oh Lord, they are trying to kill me! What have I done to them? Day and night they curse Your name. They do what they see fit with no fear of punishment. Strike them down for your name's sake. Protect me, your servant, from the evil ones." Etc. etc.
Turns out that I am more like Jonah- disobedient, judgemental, whiny, and lamenting the most irrational things.
Jonah, gotta love him, takes off running in the OTHER direction when God tells him to go to Ninevah. Ok, direct word from the Lord, and he goes 180 degrees in reverse. Why? The Ninevites were cruel and wicked people. Known and feared for their brutality, in fact. Not a soul there recognized Jehovah as Lord of their lives. According to VeggieTales, all they wanted to do was slap each other with fish all day. That's not being very nice.
So, God tells Erin to "raise up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord." And what did I do today? I went 180 degrees in reverse. Why? Because my kids are NINEVITES! They don't clean up after themselves, they demand more than I can give, they throw temper tantrums, some of them take YEARS to potty train, they wake me up in the middle of the night, they wake me up early in the morning, they ask a constant stream of questions and don't listen for the answer, which means they ask that very same question 2 minutes later... I have yet to see any severed heads impailed on pikes around the walls of the playroom, nevertheless they are a micro- Ninevah. I can hear Jonah now, "I'm not going in there! They'll slap me with fish!"
And yet God, gracious God, understands Jonah's reluctance (though He doesn't tolerate his disobedience) and sends Jonah a little motivator. Ok, a big motivator. 2 of 'em. A storm to rival Alex, Charley, Frances and Ivan combined, and a big fish. I've ridden in the belly of that fish enough times you'd think I would get tired of smelling so bad. But I keep trying to run away from the task God has set before me in parenting. I just wanna go to Tarshish. I just want a vacation on a remote island where the palm trees sway and the waves gently lap the shore. Where no little midget voices clamor at me from dawn 'til dusk. Just a little vacation, that's all I ask. (Do you know what cracks me up? The moment I DO get a break from my kids, I start to miss them. Motherhood makes you so whack-o.)
Ok, so not only does Jonah have be toted back to Ninevah by an instrument of the Lord, he cops an attitude once he gets there. Jonah, Jonah, Jonah. "Well, I'll tell them your message Lord, but I won't do it with a smile on my face or a tear in my eye. And I am NOT going to stick around to help them figure out how to repent! You never said anything about showing compassion. I've got my own agenda to stick to."
Erin, Erin, Erin. "I'll raise these kids Lord, but I'm not going to give 100% to them. If they act right and make my life convenient, then we might be able to get along alright. But if they don't stop asking me questions and wearing me down, I'm just marching right out of here and going out for coffee and cheesecake. After all, I deserve it after all this fish slapping and ruckus."
The most convicting part of Jonah's history is his attitude once he leaves Ninevah. He finds a high spot on a hill "watch it burn." Somehow, he feels justified in getting miffed when God shows compassion and grace on Ninevah- whose people have, indeed, repented. Not only that, when God sends the worm to peel back another layer of Jonah's disillusionment, his response is, "Kill me now. I am angry enough to die." To die? DIE?! Over God showing GRACE to lost people?! Over a stupid withered VINE?! Jonah, you'd DIE over THAT?!?! C'mon!
Oops, wait. Just this morning I hit the roof when Ellie spilled the syrup. Oh, and I hollered at the girls for annoying their baby sister. And then there was that incident where I just threw up my hands in frustration. My attitude said, "I'm ready to die. Just kill me now. I can't bear another moment with the noise level and the commotion around here. The baby is fussing, the syrup is dripping everywhere and that's just the end of things."
"But the LORD said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?' " Jonah 4:10-11 Jonah had lost the big picture. He let his own desire for convenience and his own agenda rule his life. He was irrational. He was furious. It became all about Jonah, rather than all about GOD. And God's response was to rationally and lovingly point out the facts- "You didn't make the plant. You didn't kill the plant. You have no claim over the plant. I made the plant. I killed the plant. It was my plant. I made the Ninevites. I have claim to their souls. You are more consumed with that silly plant than you are with a lost, doomed and confused people. They don't know their right hand from their left and yet you wanna sit up here and scream at me for taking away your SHADE?"
Ellie was saying to me in the car today, "Look, Mommy. This is my right hand and this is my left hand. Am I right?" Boy, you want to talk about a Scripture hitting home? zing! That sweet girl that dribbled syrup all over herself and the table does not know her spiritual right hand from her left. Why am I focusing on the syrup? There are Ninevites living in my own home, eating at my table, peppering me with questions all day long. And God wants me to give them a message. I really need to get beyond the fish slapping and the withering vines and start telling (and showing) my Ninevites about repentance and grace.