If you are a Christian then you know well the story of Jonah but I will sum it up here for those who may not. He was a godly man who worshiped the Lord our God. The Lord came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh (a great city of 120,000 people plus livestock) and tell them that they would be destroyed in 40 days because they had become wicked and turned away from God. Well, Jonah didn’t want to do this because he knew the Lord would forgive Nineveh if they repented and he thought Nineveh deserved to be punished, and they did deserve it for their wickedness was evil. So Jonah hopped on a boat and went in the opposite direction as if he could escape the Lord. God put a stop to that nonsense by bringing a raging storm upon the vessel which Jonah bought passage. The other sailors were not believers in God but prayed to their multiple gods to save them. Yet, when their prayers went unanswered they went to Jonah and figured out he was at fault for their current circumstance.
The sailors asked Jonah what they should do with him so that his God would spare the rest of them. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the sea would calm but they did not want to do such a thing so they rowed their hearts out until they had no choice but to submit to the Lord. They threw Jonah into the sea and it calmed at once, they repented and served the Lord for the rest of their days. Jonah’s story was not yet over. The Lord sent a great fish to swallow him up for three days until Jonah repented then the fish spat him out upon the shore. Jonah reluctantly but obediently went to Nineveh and delivered the message. Immediately, everyone repented including the king who commanded all in the city to fast and be in mourning. He commanded that all must stop their evils ways so that they may yet convince the Lord that they were sincere in their repentance. Jonah left the city in anger charging the Lord with being loving, compassionate and full of mercy. Jonah wanted the wicked Nineveh to be punished but the Lord forgave them and did not destroy the city. Jonah sat outside the city and pouted like a ill tempered child but Lord loved him so he gave him an object lesson using a plant, a worm, and searing breeze to teach him that his anger was unjustified. You can read the story in its entirety in the Bible in the book of Jonah chapters 1-4. It is a short little book but it is overflowing with many lessons.
So how am I living like Jonah as the title alludes too? Well, first I think we all must be honest with ourselves and recognize places in our life where we have followed our own wants/desires instead of what the Lord wants of us. You may protest by saying that it is hard to know what the Lord’s will for your life is but that is just a lie we tell ourselves when we want to do what we want to do. The Holy Spirit speaks softly so you need to be listening if you want to hear it and that nagging feeling that you should be going in a different direction is deliberate.
Throughout my life, I have lived as Jonah trying to avoid what the Lord wanted me to do. I knew what I wanted and I worked very, very hard to attain it. I wanted financial stability, a specific career, and power over my future. I had followed all of society’s steps to succeed. I ignored those who said I couldn’t achieve such lofty goals. I ignored the pain of my childhood maladies. I ignored the heartache of familial betrayal and abuse. I used my anger at the world to fuel me and give me that extra push when I wanted to give up. I was running away from the path the Lord wanted me on, the path where I could do the most good in this broken world. Yet, the Lord uses all of our choices for our eventual good even if there is great pain in the interim. If we truly want to follow him then he will bring us back to where we should have started.
If you have read my beginning posts on this blog then you are aware of the challenges that filled my past, arrested my present, and are in the process of shortening my future. There is no need to rehash that information in this post.
I thought I had learned the lessons within Jonah and could avoid making the same mistakes but in a recent letter to my cousin, I realized I was once again running from a path I did not wish to go down. As you know, I am in poor health. My recent doctor’s appointment had me determined to stick to my previous decision concerning my treatment. As you know, the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that revealed itself when I was five has had 41 years work on destroying my body. I have developed subsequent ailments due to the longevity of the RA and the toxic medications used for its treatment. Hence, my last several doctor’s appointments put the doctor and I between the proverbial rock and hard place. A secondary ailment, termed vasculitis, has not responded to treatment and has brought my body to a crisis point where the repeated inflammation of my vasculatory system could cause organ failure, internal hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, or embolism. My doctor suggested I try adding another toxic drug used in organ recipient patients to annihilate my immune system, which has been attacking my own body since the RA first reared its despicable head 4 decades ago. Of course, immune suppressant therapy is the norm for any autoimmune disorder when your immune system goes into hyper drive for no reason at all. But the addition of this drug would most certainly cause the development of different cancers and/or fatal infections. The doctor had not mentioned it before because we had been trying to get a more expensive and more effective medication approved by my health insurance to no avail. However, after nearly a year of out of control symptoms my body is in crisis so there is no other option except to allow the diseases to finish me off, which I am not opposed too. When you have suffered day in and day out for forty years, you tend to want to be paroled for good behavior. Yet, this is not the road I was trying to avoid.
No, the road I was actively avoiding appeared when I found a large mass in my abdomen. I did tell my rheumatologist about it and even showed her. She strongly recommended that I see a specialist straight away given that I have been on immune suppressant therapies most of my life but I declined that option as I had zero intention of doing anything about the mass. Although I had resolved to stay around until the Lord chose to take me home instead of forcing his hand by taking my own life, I was not about to do anything stupid like prolong it intentionally. I had discovered the mass several months ago when it was about the size of an orange. Now it is the size of a small cantaloupe but I do not associate any pain or discomfort from it due to all my other health issues making it is easy to ignore. Finding another regular doctor, then being referred to a specialist, then going through all the tests, biopsies, and subsequent surgery and recovery was and IS the path I did/do not want to traverse. This is the path I have been actively avoiding because I did not want to go down another road that led to suffering even if it only promised to increase the suffering by a micron. I did not see this action as running away from the Lord’s will until writing that letter today to my cousin.
Several years ago I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me the purpose to all I had suffered and to all the suffering I was promised in the future. I needed to know or I feared I might not have the strength to endure it. He answered that prayer and I have been greatly blessed to see all the connections where my suffering has led to a path that enabled me to help someone escape the darkness in which they were lost or still struggling to walk through. My experiences have helped many folks along the way that might have given up had I not been able to say that I, too, had gone through that or was going through that specific circumstance. When you look into the eyes and heart of the wounded there is pain, suffering, and so many questions. The only way to help those suffering is to be able to reflect true understanding back toward that person. It is as if they are at the bottom of a very deep and dangerous pit and either losing hope or having lost hope of ever getting out when you become the pin point of light that they can barely see. You are the one throwing down the rope and encouraging them to hold on tight because you are not going to let them go. Of course, you are not the one they are truly looking toward but toward Christ. They need to see the love of the Lord for them through you. Sometimes, you are the only Bible someone will ever read or the only Christ someone will ever be able to see. Each and every one of your actions and words are monumentally important when viewed through this filter.
As I was writing to my cousin explaining my rationalization not to take this path, I realized that I had my marathon sneakers on and I was running like a mad woman from the crazy house (metaphorically speaking). I think I must have run millions of miles away from where the Lord needed me throughout my lifetime. I guess I could spin that fact to say that at least I got some exercise when my body refused to obey me. Sarcasm aside, I realized that I might need to take this path of addressing this large mass in order shine my faith so someone who might be lost can see it. It is a large responsibility and truthfully, I do not want it but I have decided that I am going to stop running and obey the Lord. He is sending me upon this path for a reason and it is about time that I start listening to him instead of doing what I want to do and speed my exit from this life. I want to be in paradise, the Lord needs me here for something. I want to be in paradise, but the Lord is asking me to tread upon this path for someone, I think. If my history is any indication of my future then this is going to be a very difficult path to tread and there will be great suffering involved BUT someone needs me to shine Christ for them. Whether it is a nurse, doctor, patient, janitor or someone else matters not, for if someone is alone and lost in the dark ready to give up all hope then I am willing walk this path to find them. A little extra suffering is but a small price to pay if you can help someone find their way or rekindle their hope. Without direction or hope then we are truly destitute in our souls and in our lives.
So, if you are running away from something perhaps it is time you take a break and evaluate where you have landed upon your journey. I pray many blessings upon you and thank you for reading my mutterings. If you could spare a prayer for strength, I would greatly appreciate it.