I have never felt like Jonah. I’ve never felt like a coward. I’ve never felt like I was running away from the will of God….at least not until this weekend. I have this horrible tendency to act like everything is all right, which I think is a problem for a lot of people, either that or they sit on the other end of the spectrum where they’re constantly telling the world every intimate detail of their lives. The thing is, everything was not all right. Everything’s okay now, but when I was headed home and the couple of weeks before that, things were not all right. Not even close. But I kept smiling at church and I kept sounding intellectual at Bible studies, saying, “Well, things are challenging but I know God has a plan.” It was more like, “I’m absolutely suffocating and I can’t stand on my own two spiritual feet and I need someone to tell me God still wants me here.” Well, I got what I needed.
This morning when I woke up the only thing on my mind was the woods. All I wanted to do was get out to the woods. When I have a lot on my mind, or when I’m feeling something I’ve never felt before, I get irritable and angry. I didn’t even crack open my Bible, because I knew it wouldn’t help. I needed to be isolated and alone with God, with no one around. It was only after the fact that I remembered Jesus making a habit out of going off on his own to pray and hang out with God.
I packed a thermos of hot chocolate, a notebook to burn, a lighter, some blankets, a jug of fresh water, and myriad other things. I drove out to The Land in a daze, on a mission. I arrived and piled all of my everything onto my person and trudged through the deep heavy snow until I reached main camp. Thinking about nothing (this is the first time I’ve ever done this), I stood in the middle of camp, listening to the creaking of the trees, to the subtle breeze, to the birds singing to each other: and I knew it was just me and God. There was no one else. I felt vulnerable.
Unlocking the outhouse and grabbing lighter fluid, I began to construct a fire. I yanked dead branches and twigs from nearby trees after digging the snow out of the fire pit. I made a tee-pee over crumpled up pieces of paper and dry pine needles, just to get it going. The eager flame ate up the paper and the needles, quickly jumping onto the dead wood surrounding it. Seeing that the fire was like a hungry toddler, I sprinted to the wood pile further away from camp to grab some larger logs.
I took a drink of hot chocolate and sat on a cinder block, one of the many that made up the boundaries of the pit. I sat there for a long time, saying nothing, just listening to the silence. After some time I decided to pull out my Bible study, but the pen I brought had frozen during the time I was there. There was nothing to distract me.
Me: Fine, God. I don’t want to go back to New York, okay? I know You want me to, but I’m just not strong enough to do it. I already applied to Baptist Bible College in Pennsylvania. They have a great program, and it’ll be much healthier for my relationship with You.
God: You need to be in New York.
Me: …there’s a great writing program at BBC. Also, I’ll be surrounded by Christians and I can go rock climbing with Leah and I can come to The City for the outreach program, so I’ll still be doing ministry in The City.
God: You need to be in New York.
Me: ..I mean, at least I tried, right? I tried my best to get through it, and it just isn’t working out. Nobody will bash me if I leave Pratt.
Yoda: Do, or do not, there is no try.
God: You need to be in New York.
Me: I DON”T WANT TO BE IN NEW YORK!!
The tears came then, freezing to my face as I tried to speak through them.
Me: God…I just…I’m so out of my element. I’m not strong enough to do this. I’m so weak! I just want to feel comfortable and safe and I know that’s selfish but I’m going crazy! The things I’ve seen…the things I can’t change.
Me: God, why can’t I just do this? Be alone? Why can’t I just live as a hermit? I’ll go up to Alaska and live in a log cabin and eat deer. Venison is so good. It’ll be like Noah did in Snow Angel, only I’ll be a woman and he was a man.
I sat and cried and cried and I was weak before God, the only One I can really let in. I know it sounds cliche, not being able to let people in, but it really is a problem of mine. I don’t know how to say that nothing’s right without feeling like I’m being melodramatic. The worst part about this is that I had let nobody in, not even God (even though He totally knew what was going on), for a few weeks, and all of my fears and worries and anxieties about everything began to eat me alive. Dramatic, but true.
After a while, feeling like I was done and ready to leave, I threw snow on the fire, put the lighter fluid away and locked the outhouse, picked up my things and left. I sniffled and looked like a mess covered in sap, my jeans wet from the snow, my face puffy, and my hands smelling like lighter fluid.
I drove to Wal Mart, still in a daze, and it was an act of God that I didn’t get in an accident. My heart was absolutely broken and I was mentally on my knees with my face on the floor, begging for relief. I went into Wal Mart, running into some people from school. I was sure I looked miserable, a mess, but they didn’t comment. All they did was say how glad they were to see me.
When I got home, I was exhausted both emotionally and also physically. Gracie asked me if I wanted to go shopping. I told her no, whereas normally, if I was myself, I would’ve been eager to go out. I just lay in my bed, sleeping, until Mom came in and said all of everyone was going to Utica to go shopping.
I changed out of my Ranger Rick clothing and into my usual get up. We left, everyone excited to go to the mall…but my head and heart were still heavy.
If I go to BBC, I’ll be safe. I won’t have to be afraid of being around things I don’t want floating around in my head. I’ll be encouraged on a daily basis. I’ll feel comfortable. I’ll be learning about God and His word on a daily basis along with how to write about them. It would be practical to go to BBC. I thought this way as we walked out of Best Buy.
When we went to get dinner in the food court of the mall, the weight was heavier than ever. We sat eating Subway and Flaming Wok, but each bite I took made my stomach turn.
But if I go to BBC, I know I’ll be running from where God wants me to be. I won’t have to depend on God as much. I’ll be in a Christian bubble. It won’t be an adventure. That’s exactly what it’ll be: safe. Since when is God’s love safe? Am I going to trust Him and do what He wants me to do? Am I going to follow Him no matter what? Am I going to believe Him when He says this plan is not to harm me? Am I going to believe that He is strong when I’m not?
When we returned home, I no longer felt trapped, weighed down, or unsure. I had known what I had to do all along. Just like Jonah knew he needed to go to Nineveh, I needed to be in New York. Why? I don’t know, but I know God is there, and I love Him. I don’t want to be somewhere He’s not. Yeah, He’s everywhere, but that’s not what I’m talking about. The Holy Spirit is pushing me in that direction and every time I think about leaving, He reminds me who I am, that I am not a spineless Christian that says their God is the most powerful, mighty, impenetrable, and sustaining being ever known. I am not a civilian. I am not a prisoner. I am not a victim. I am a warrior of the Lord of Hosts. I am a daughter of the King of Kings. And I am strong enough, but not because of myself…oh not at all. My body is so pathetically fragile and destructible, I could destroy it without being hit. But God…oh but God…He is strong enough, and He is strong through me.
I need to stop being a stooge-face and just tell people when things are absolutely horrible. While it’s not a bad thing to see the good in things, it’s not good to ignore your fears, to ignore your hurt, to ignore your misery until it’s wedged a wall between you and God. I had stopped telling God about the bad and had only been telling Him about the good, hoping that if I only talked about the good, then the bad would go away. But the bad stayed in my mind, and Satan latched onto it and fed it to my fears until the good was all but an illusion and I forgot what it was like to be my goofy, excited, joyful self. I couldn’t enjoy God’s presence anymore because I was so consumed with worry and fear.
It’s okay to admit that things are bad.
Anyway, the difference between me and Jonah, is that I am going to Nineveh without taking the detour through the belly of a whale. God is the good. God can handle my fear. God can handle any worry, any anxiety, any defect of character I can come up with, and for some reason I felt like I could only talk to Him about the good, which is REALLY silly because He knows about the bad anyway. God can handle any sin, any trip up, any temptation, and any need I could possibly give up to Him. He can handle me, my heartache, my desires, my wants, my dreams. Nothing is too big or too bad for Him to fight.
Now let’s do this.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” —2 Corinthians 12:9,10, ESV