And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to his way of loving.

excerpt from Thomas Carlisle’s “You Jonah”

The past six/seven months have been packed with transition and learning, and I haven’t had the will or wisdom to write. Today while sitting at a Starbucks praying through a project at church and what it looks like to have a heart for missions I realized that much of “Thoughts from a Runner” really could be summed up by the book of Jonah.

One particular similarity knocked the feet from underneath me this morning…

The past eight years as I have grown deeper in my walk with God. I am beginning to see that this growth has been a constant process of God calling me to live a life on mission, me fighting it and then, through His amazing grace inviting, and molding, and shaping me to have his heart for the people around me.

  • Ministry at the University of Arizona
  • On Mission in Kazahkstan
  • Reaching College Students in Australia
  • Helping lost people find their way back to God in Tucson
What does this have to do with Jonah?

Jonah is such an amazing book because we can see God still working to teach, to reach his thick-skulled missionary with the truth of who He is and His heart for the nations. That the entire book of Jonah is about God working on Jonah’s heart. What I realized this morning is that, like Jonah, I can many time miss the point of the storm, the sailors, the fish, Nineveh and most importantly a gourd tree.

A gourd tree?

When I got back from Australia I was blessed, due to no real effort on my part, with the comfort of an amazing community.

At the end of the book of Jonah, after everything God has done, Jonah still doesn’t get this call to live a life on mission. God uses one more approach – the miraculous tree (Jonah 4:5-11). A climbing gourd springs up quickly, and offers Jonah protection against the beating sun. The community that I was a part of was totally God given and such a blessing. What we see in the story, is that as quickly as the tree grew it withers and dies, the victim of an attacking worm.

Jonah is… annoyed.

At that point God again turns to his missionary-student, using the tree as a lesson. The creator of heaven and earth, the God of human history, of wind and waves, who spoke the universe into being, who just miraculously redeemed and restored the entire city of Nineveh to himself, tenderly asks Jonah, “Are you really so angry about the tree?”

Jonah in anger and frustration responds: “Yes, angry enough to die.”

God’s response to such bitterness is so beautiful. Despite everything that has happened up to this point, He is still calling Jonah to join him on mission, to “his way of loving”:

“You are sorry and concerned about the tree, though you had nothing to do with growing it, a plant which came up in a night and withered in a night. My heart and concern is for the great city of Nineveh, with its 120,000 who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”

While I wasn’t aware of it until today, I have been quietly discontented and annoyed with God causing the comfort that I experienced with this community to wither away. Despite this, over the past few months I have experienced a tender questioning: “Are you really so angry that I took that community away? What about the city around you?”

If I’m honest my response to God has been at times just as mature as Jonah’s.

By God’s grace, however, I am growing not only an awareness, but a deep heartfelt sorrow and concern for the 1,020,000 people in the Tucson area who “do not know their right hand from their left.” Beginning to sincerely yearn to proclaim the gospel students at the University of Arizona. To share hope and good news with broken families in the foothills and South Tucson alike. To show God’s grace and love to the thousands of international refugees who call the Old Pueblo home. To join with other Christians to come alongside the numerous military families who currently call Tucson… home.

As God works on my heart, I am growing to care more about the rescue and redemption of those in the mission field that God has called me to than I do my comfort.

It has been a hard lesson, and this thick-skulled man is grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace, humbled by God’s provision as He has provides fellowship and community, and most of all, in awe of God’s tireless and tender call for me to join his missionary heart – to live a life focused and dedicated to “Helping lost people find their way back to God.”

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Comments
  1. Oh, MGM! I’m glad you’ve posted again. You’re an excellent blogger 🙂

    The tree lesson is one that a lot of people I know are learning right now. 😉 I realized I was learning it when Shasta and I were reading Bonhoeffer. The entire first chapter of Life Together seems to be about the Crossing, because he wrote things like,

    “Therefore, let him who until now has had the privelege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren…”

    and

    “Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love. Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy but in Christ and his Word.”

    Along with realizing that I didn’t grow the tree and it was only in my life because God gave it to me as a gift, I think I’m currently discovering that God didn’t ever completely kill the tree. He may have killed the tree He grew for Jonah, but He doesn’t treat every person in exactly the same manner.

    The tree He grew for me (and a few other people I know) is flourishing again, providing shade and comfort…

    and there’s a nice comfy spot next to me that’s unoccupied.

    There used to be this great guy who sat in that spot. I know he’s found some of God’s other trees that are also very nice, but I wonder if he even realizes there’s still a spot for him underneath this one. I wonder if he gets that we’re saving a spot for him.

    I hope he knows that.

    • mgmstudious says:

      Thanks Katie :)… I’m finally getting back into a place where I’m wanting to write again, I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m certainly going to make an effort at it.

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