I went for a bike ride alone yesterday. There is a lake about two blocks from the house and every once in awhile I remember what a blessing it is, and my husband and I take out the bikes and head over. And while we’ve been married for five years this year, I realized that I don’t ever do this. I don’t ever really venture out on my own. We are in a one car situation currently. It didn’t start out intentionally at first. Our old Malibu literally rusted away and refused to start, and that was that. One car left. But it’s been almost two years since that car left us, and we never even started looking for a new one to replace it. Instead, we arranged work schedules so we could ride together, and now that I’m home we switch off taking the car here and there. It’s been saving us money, which is usually the reason we give to people when they ask why we don’t buy another one. But in reality we are kind of in love with all the extra time we get to have together on our commutes. It seems so ridiculously simple. But somehow God removing something that felt so necessary and significant before has become a Grace that we weren’t even looking for. Are there days when I wish for the convenience and freedom of the two car scenario? Of course there are. But most days, we are content and grateful to be given what we have, more time.
Yesterday though I ventured out on my own down to the lake. And I sat on a bench along the trail and I contemplated how good God has been even though my days are sometimes hard. I had spent the week leading up to this looking for flexible jobs where I could write and contribute to the household income again. These searches generally end in discouragement. And many times I have said out loud how it just makes no sense to me that I could have a college degree and yet find it so difficult to find a job I love. But the truth is that I am a worrier, and often times this makes me an impulse applicant. I love to do a lot of things. I love to teach. I love to manage classrooms and plan curriculum. I love to teach kids whether it be in a preschool setting or at a piano. I loved nannying. I loved building relationships with those two tiny kiddos and watching them grow into graceful little people. But I also love to write. And I know this. It’s what I have a degree in. It’s what God has put on my heart. And yet…I run from it. It doesn’t pay to write if you don’t have a publisher or you haven’t monetized your blog. Which is why I have taken on so many jobs and have chosen to write for free. But I also believe sharing the Gospel with the world should be free…Jesus made it that way.
And this is where it gets tricky and I start to feel the urge to run back to safety, run back to the things I know and have experience in…I start to feel like Jonah. And like Jonah I begin to chase the idol of comfort over the work of God. I don’t like that He’s asked me to do something different, something that doesn’t sound so good to people when they ask me what I do. Jonah didn’t want to be the guy to tell a whole city that they were sinning…and often times I don’t want to be the girl who tells the world that I’ve chosen something that goes against the norm. Jonah ran like I often do. He jumped on a boat, went below deck, and fell asleep. Which is what I find myself wanting…to sleep through life. To be so comfortable that everything just works. To float through, loving God just enough that He doesn’t ask me to do the hard stuff. But if God has called you to something, He will wake you up. He woke Jonah up, and here’s what Jonah declared:
Jonah 2:8-9 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.”
What is your worthless idol that causes you to forfeit Grace? For me it is safety and control. This includes control over my future whether that refers to fertility or to job security. Jonah says “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.” It took a storm to wake up Jonah. It took something he didn’t expect to swallow up the plans for his life, to change his direction. To help him find his focus. I see myself in this. I have felt the storm come. I have watched my plans be swallowed up. I have felt the uncertainty of the waves and the darkness Jonah felt while he spent three days in the deep as I have clung to my worthless idols.
Jonah saw the light of day once more and he vowed to sacrifice to God, with thanksgiving. That’s how you find your focus. You lay it all out on the table. You place it all on the altar of God. All your plans, all your dreams, all your idols. You lay it out before Him and you break it all…and you give thanks while you do it. I’ve heard this concept mentioned before. I’ve heard that through the breaking you are living, and I’m not even sure who said it anymore. But it’s what keeps resonating with me today. You break down your walls, and you give thanks. You break plans, and you give thanks. You break bread, and you give thanks. Sometimes to find your focus again, you need to be broken.
Jonah 4:9-11 “But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” 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 Ninevah 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?”
I have been concerned about a vine that I cannot make grow. The future was my vine. I thought I had more control over that than anyone else. If God had asked me a few months ago if I felt I had a right to be angry about that vine, I would have answered the same way Jonah did, stubborn and defiant and feeling scorned. But it turns out that my future was never mine to mold. It was never mine to chart out. I can’t make it produce a certain type of fruit because I am not the gardener who planted it. God has greater concerns for my life, and for the people my life impacts, than I do. I can try to get on a boat and sail away from it all. I can try to sleep through the storm. But God will always wake me up. And if you are running, He will wake you up too. Because He loves you and He loves this world and He has lovingly charted out the course of it. He has lovingly and very specifically charted out your course. He is a powerful God, and His love can stir up the most powerful storms in our hearts. If we want to see Grace, then we need to see God clearly. We need to look right at Him. Don’t turn away from the prodding of your heart. Chances are, God is redirecting you, turning your ship around so you head the right direction…toward Him, not away.
I rode home from the lake alone yesterday, but I didn’t ride back feeling empty. I went out feeling discouraged, but God made sure that I returned home feeling Grace. I still don’t know exactly where He’s leading me, but I know that I’m headed in the right direction. I can feel it, and I can see the vision He’s giving me for this life slowly coming into focus. Don’t forfeit your Grace like me and Jonah have so many times. Break through what is breaking you…and give Him thanks.