Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish

Jonah boat to Tarshish by Ruth Coleman

Living with Uncertainty…And Seeking God’s Plan: Part 1 of 2.

Back in November, our Executive Pastor, Doug, at Christ Church Santa Fe preached on the Book and saga of Jonah. The familiar story, though it sounds much like crazy fiction, draws parallels to our lives in ways I hadn’t considered before. In a nutshell, Jonah disobeys and tries to flee from God and gets swallowed by a whale who miraculously spits him back onto dry land three days later. Sure, sounds just like something that can happen to us, right? Especially here in dry, land-locked Santa Fe. I guess I’m actually focusing on the temptation to flee from God…maybe not in such an obvious way as Jonah, but we have our ways. We, despite our knowledge of a God who loves us immensely and only wants the best for us, think we can make better plans for ourselves than He does. We (okay I) fret over what the future will bring. And just like Jonah, I try to manipulate a way to bring my own plans to fruition.

Ryan and I are currently trying to determine if God has a big transition in store for our family. While pursuing the next exciting step for Ryan’s career, it’s looking more and more like a job change might need to involve a move. It’s hard enough to come to terms with that realization, but now we need to figure out where God might like to plop us down next. How does one figure out God’s plan? For me, I usually know what I want. And I also realize that God knows what’s best. But in my not-so-infinite-wisdom, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.

In the story of Jonah and the whale, God told Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah took a boat to Tarshish instead. In his sermon, Doug presented several opinions on why Jonah did not follow God’s directive to go to Ninevah. I guess Jonah thought he could do better than what God had for him (sound familiar?). Tarshish was not on the way to Ninevah. It was the opposite direction…not exactly a subtle move on Jonah’s part. Was he scared of what life would bring him in Ninevah? Did he have such devotion to his people that he didn’t want to be associated with the Ninevites? Did he have idols that got in his way? All understandable reasons to me, but that last question is the main stumbling block I drew parallel to.

Jonah 2:8 says, “those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”  That verse stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I know how much idols hurt me. And I know how much more my Jesus fills my heart. Yet, why do I allow idols to cloud my judgment? Do I seriously think they are better than the hope of steadfast love of Christ? When we rely on idols in place of God, we are basically fleeing from God…just like Jonah did.

Way too often, I take God’s own blessings and make them into idols. The blessings in themselves are not bad at all. But they will never fulfill me the way his deep and steadfast love does. We are blessed to live in a home in Santa Fe where I can look out the back door up into the mountains- I don’t want to leave it. He has put amazing women in my life who have blessed me with their friendship – I don’t want to move away from them. I love the easy and convenient pace of life in The Land of Enchantment. I really love the fact that Ryan has been in control his own schedule for the last two years. I am grateful for all of these many blessings. But I can’t let myself love them more, depend on them more, or find my peace in them more than God the Father who wants me to put my trust in Him and offers me unconditional, steadfast love…wherever we live.

I like to be in control. I don’t like uncertainty. I have learned, however, over the past year that uncertainty can be a blessing that makes me depend on God more. I am reminded that the God of our family is our One and Only Sustainer. These many blessings mentioned above – no matter how sweet – are futile if I allow them to become idols. No idol is worth having fled from His Steadfast Love. God’s many blessings in Santa Fe are amazing. But we have to keep a willing spirit if God leads us in another direction. He will provide because He is always with us. I have to have hope in that truth.

In his sermon, Doug said that when God calls us to something in life, there will always be a boat to Tarshish available to take us in the other direction. I don’t want get on that boat. So, every day, Ryan and I have to pray for God to lead our family. Only God can give us the grace to follow His perfect lead in the midst of uncertainty.

Jonah shared a pretty good lesson with us. It’s not worth ‘three days in the belly of a whale’ to fight against God’s perfect plan. Even when I think I know better. I just have to be reminded As far as how to figure out God’s plan…we’ll just have to pray for direction and hope it’s obvious. I’m open to any suggestions on figuring out God’s plan! In the meantime, I’ll rest in knowing that our steadfast God will continue to pursue us anywhere for all time. The challenge is to avoid the boat to Tarshish.

*Art, Jonah boat to Tarshish, by Ruth Coleman