Saturday, September 11, 2004

Call Me Jonah

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.


Dena said...

I can relate so well! Erin, you sure have a way of making me see how I really am! I'm not turning away am I? Yes, so very true. Everytime my sweet innocent girls want to do something that I don't have time for...don't want to take time for. Why can't I remember first and foremost that I am to teach them, to care for them. To remember that I wanted them and that God was so giving that he gave me have 2 wonderful pregnancies and exciting births. Support from family and friends. Why do I not see all that I am surrounded by and be thankful?
Erin,I love your imagery and how you can relate the bible to everyday life. I've always admired that about you. Thanks for inviting me to the study.

After moving from my home town for the first time(and being over 30!) I've changed in so many ways, but still do not feel I can relate my bible studies to EVERYDAY life. I hope to be able to pinpoint where I lack and express it to God through the lament study. I know I fall short, but my desire is to see my progress so that I continue to improve.

Having done one SPS project, I know the closeness that is created with God and how I was able to worship him in such a raw state. It seems that the creative process helps keep me close to and makes my Savior very real.

I am looking forward to this study, as I have not had any formal/group bible study in over a year. Hence the sappiness your reading! ;)

rhon said...

Dena! I'm so glad you've joined us!

Dena did some great cards in a SPS on Worship. Check them out in the Project Gallery on the web site.

San said...

Hey Erin-girl! That was some post. Did you hear the crunching sound as you stepped on my toes? San

Erin said...

Hey Dena,
I love your Worship card with the gal holding the rifle saying, "Go ahead make my day! Let me worship my God!" ( The truth in that has always cracked me up. I guess it's because I imagine that she's saying it to her KIDS. Don't they have a way of sucking you dry? I suppose the real key is to come to a place where we can not only worship God IN SPITE OF our daily grind with little kids, but also embrace the daily grind ITSELF as AN ACT OF worship. Gosh, that mystifies me. And I don't like the sound of it. I really hate the daily grind.

rhon said...

I LOVE sharing our cards with each other and getting new perspectives on them. I always imagined the "rifle girl" (I love this card, too) was talking to satan. After Erin's observation, I can see her talking to rush hour traffic and my boss!

Dena said...

Well, girls, I'll let you in on my card background. (I thought it was one of the lame ones!) ;)

It' came to me from the stuggles of family and how I felt 'different' from them now that I am a believer. (the "oh, she thinks she's better than us" feeling).
I suddenly felt different around family. They were uncomfortable. All I wanted to do was Worship My God. Not feel torn, questioned, or wrong.