Jonah 1:2b …3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord…
There is a name for the season I’m in. I’d like to think it is “dedicated”, “hard worker”, “team player”, “sacrificial”… even workaholic… call it anything but DISOBEDIENT.
I’ve been working up to 7 days and 70+ hour weeks the last year or more. Not every week but many of them, especially in the last several months.
It all began a couple of years ago when my company took me out of my 15-year salaried office job as an IT Manager and put me in the field as an hourly technician. At the time it felt like a huge demotion. I thought “I’m an IT Manager, field technician is the grunt work that leads up to my position, I’ve got 30 years IT experience, don’t you know what I’m worth”.
I’ve always been devoted to my work. Heck, why not, a career is the easiest place to hide from real life while seemingly participating in it. It’s the perfect front for the wounded soul.
“Sorry I’ve got to work” leaves little room for others to push back. We all know how important a job or career is, it’s the centerpiece of many people’s existence. We may argue it isn’t but how many opportunities in life are missed cuz “I gotta work”.
And how many obligations are avoided cuz “I gotta work”. It sounds altruistic on the surface, a sacrifice, a cross to bear; I’m needed for the success of the company and it puts food on the table… win-win, right?
And if the company wants to bless you with 1.5x pay for anything over 8 hours and 2x pay for anything over 12… who can resist? This is a blessing from the Lord right?
As I woke this morning and petitioned God to lead me into His word and to press on my heart His message for my soul, even before opening my bible He put Jonah’s plight front and center.
“Why Jonah Lord“, I asked, “what are you implying”.
His response was immediate and so boldly hit me that it felt audible… “I DON’T IMPLY”. It felt stern and urgent, clearly a 2×4-up-the-side-of-the-head moment.
Well ok then, God says I am running. How and why are clearly the next appropriate questions. And sadly (or gratefully) both answers came very quickly.
“You are using the guise of career importance and the pursuit of money to avoid friends, family & ministry and it is costing you your self-care and distancing your heart from mine”
OUCH!!!! Way to unravel nearly my entire existence, thank you for that Lord! (yes, God understands and accepts my sarcasm)
Jonah didn’t NOT believe in God; quite the opposite. Jonah knew he was called by God to preach to a fallen land. He was called into a ministry and message that he personally didn’t “want” to do.
Jonah knew God was powerful enough to use him to bring a nation to repentance; Jonah ran from his calling and the life experiences God had for him.
Could that message apply to me?
I am over 50 yet never been married and not dating
I am a father yet only see my son once a week at best lately
I am (was?) a leader at church but rarely find (make) time for church activities outside of my men’s groups, and even those I more often lately leave to my co-leaders when I’m working 15 hour days.
I have not served in any volunteer activities in nearly a year
I don’t pick up the phone every time someone in recovery calls me
I rarely blog or journal anymore
Don’t get me wrong, I read my bible, pray and talk with (at?) God daily… and I rely on Him heavily to survive these physically and mentally challenging days on the job.
But emotionally and spiritually I’m disconnecting from the world and my calling to preach to and encourage the hurting and lost around me.
Case in point: I pray every morning that God open doors for me to share the Good News while on the job, to make some spiritual use out of this selfish workaholic season.
Literally, just a couple days ago a very pretty European or Middle Eastern descent young woman out of nowhere burst out “why do people keep cramming Jesus on me, I don’t even believe in him. They can’t force me to believe something that I don’t”.
I was on a ladder at the time about to squeeze into a ceiling crawlspace to run network cable and I was completely caught off guard by her comment. Nobody else was around and it was as if she was arguing with an evil spirit right in front of me.
Talk about a wide open door to engage!
But I remained silent. I immediately knew God loved this young lady and wanted her freedom and that I was Divinely placed at this exact moment to water the seeds planted by others… but I had so little in the wellspring, and she was so angry, rude to other employees, condescending to vendors and even customers.
Everything about her made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and I “chose” not to engage.
That experience has bothered me ever since it happened. I don’t think God is upset that I didn’t engage, I believe He knew I wouldn’t and orchestrated that to reveal where my heart is lately.
“George, you have been striving in the flesh for so long pursuing the lesser things”. “When are you going to stop running from the deeper ways I want to use you.”
This is not an easy lesson for me friends. As I type this I feel like this message would be better served tucked away in a private journal for reflection and not shared with my readers.
And while I’m confessing, at this point I honestly hear more arguments against change than for it.
Pressing into difficult relationships… is difficult
Sacrificing free time for volunteer work is… a sacrifice
Stepping into the messiness of other people’s brokenness… is messy
Preaching the Gospel to people who are fighting God’s pursuit of them… is a fight
Risking exposure of my mess to date again… is risky
Committing to more at church requires… more commitment
Working fewer hours means… less money
But there is hope for me
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,
“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
3 “For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
7 “While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the Lord.”
Have you been running from God lately?
How do you hide in plain sight?
Addictions, avoiding meetings and gathering with other believers, excesses like food, gaming or social media binging, workaholism, something else?
Are there burdens on your heart or opportunities to make a difference in the life of another that you missed or worse, intentionally avoided?
What does repentance look like for us?
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord…
Lord as I watched that video tears streamed down my face. I am tired of running Father. I didn’t even realize I was running but it seems so clear this morning. Work satisfies the needs of the flesh in so many ways but if it comes at the expense of pushing out deeper relationships and time spent pouring into the souls of others for Your glory then the price is too high. You did not give everything through Your life, death, and resurrection for us, for me, to spend it avoiding the deeper things of Your calling and ministry placed in our hearts. You grow us all Father in special ways through life experiences and the Holy Spirit within which uniquely equips and qualifies us to serve others right where we are. May this not be a one-time conviction that we move past easily Lord but be the foundation for true heart evolution. Let it be a call to repentance, a call to courage, a call to move toward You and stop running from You. May this come to bear under the powerful and precious name and blood of Jesus Christ…
Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
I encourage anyone so moved to confide and confess to the ways you have been running from God’s calling on your life in the comment section below, who knows how God may use that to reach and inspire another!