Thursday, May 5, 2011

Life Interrupted

I'm attending a women's Bible Study right now on the book of Jonah, and I have to admit that when I found out this was to be the topic of the study, my first thought was "Jonah? That seems kind of boring. Isn't it just about a guy who gets caught in a storm and then stuck in the belly of a whale (ahem, big fish) for 3 days? Why would they choose THAT for a 6 week women's Bible study?" But from the very first video we watched (hosted by the vivacious and comically direct Priscilla Shirer) I was hooked. Jonah is about so much more. It's about a man - a prophet nonetheless - who decides that God's plan for his life is an interruption that he'd just rather avoid. And not just avoid - but actively run away from to the farthest place a boat would take him. And then a storm hits (another interruption), and he's found guilty and thrown overboard (interruption), swallowed by a sea creature (minor interruption), and maybe most interestingly of all, deposited right back on the shore of Joppa, not Ninevah where God had wanted to send him, but the very place this whole mess he'd made had started. All that for nothing? Just a big huge interruption? I think not, my friends. As blind as Jonah was to God's reasons for sending him to Ninevah "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord" (Isa 55:8), the very details of his story led to a crew of sailors being saved, the nation of Ninevah being saved, the restoration of Jonah from rebellion into obedience, and a story that made it into the very word of God for millions of people to read, relate to, and be encouraged by! Jonah never could have guessed that his story, full of his own personal disobedience and God's continual "interruptions", could have had an outcome so far-reaching!

What the story keeps asking us to consider is how we view the "interruptions" God puts in our lives. From the big life-changing ones down to the daily irritations. We love to plan, we love to control, and sometimes we just don't do so well when we lose our grip on either one. But look where Jonah's many "interruptions" eventually brought him! I can think of several huge and painful "interruptions" that happened in my life that, at the time, seemed to make no sense. Some of these things are still painful, but I've realized that they have brought me where I am today. Because of these interruptions I have been forced to grow and change and I've definitely had to lean on God. Had I not been so rudely "interrupted" I may have grown stagnant in my own contentment with life. Had I received everything I wanted in the time and place that I had wanted it, I may have missed a true understanding of my need for God and been thoroughly self-satisfied.

A quote from the study guide that helps us see how we define "interruption" is:
"Interruptions only become positive when we consider the person or the circumstance interrupting to be more significant than that which currently occupies our attention"(Shirer 13). An illustration she made that makes this so obvious is the following: if you're just about to sit down to dinner and the phone rings with a pesky telemarketer on the other end, well, that's an interruption. But had the caller on the other end of the line been Publisher's Clearing House telling you that you'd just won a few million dollars, well, suddenly that call isn't so much an "interruption" now, is it? It all depends on what we view as important. If God is truly the most important thing in our life, then any plans he has for us, no matter how different they may be from our own, shouldn't be viewed as an "interruption" of our life, but should be welcomed and celebrated! Granted, this is easier said than done - especially when "interruptions" seem to be cropping up all over the place (like today when Oliver woke up with huge swollen welts on the back of his legs (an eczema flare-up) and I had to get last-minute help with the girls so I could get him to the doctor, or when I got a phone call this evening that our "nanny" who helps twice a week so we can go on a date and to a couples Bible Study was offered a full-time job elsewhere and would no longer be able to help us) but at least with this knowledge we can try to see them for what they really are, not mere interruptions, but invitations to align our wills to God's will and shift our focus from our own very narrow (and, ahem, usually selfish) plan to a plan that is so much bigger, and greater than anything we could ever imagine. Who knows where these "interruptions" will lead us, or what they may set in motion that may have great effect on the lives around us!

"The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and kind in all his deeds" Psalm 145:17
"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:18
"I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8
"So Jonah arose and went to Ninevah according to the word of the Lord." Jonah 3:3

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