Wanting, and Waiting, and Whales, Oh My!
Has the Word of God ever come to life, sprouted wings, and swan-dived straight into the core of your being with great intensity? This recently happened to me with some verses in the book of Jonah.
“Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, but as for me I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the LORD.” – Jonah 2:8-9
Suddenly I was looking at some of the most powerful words of surrender I had ever read. Here’s the setting: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he ran in the opposite direction, a great storm came up and Jonah was cast into the sea. At the last moment, a great fish swallowed him and when he collected himself and calmed down, he prayed. This whole chapter, Jonah Chapter Two, is Jonah’s prayer to the Lord. He thought his life was fading away, but then he looked to the Lord and was saved. So now he’s saying:
“I hold on faithfully to things that will not be faithful to me. However, now I know that if I sacrifice those, I will be saved. I give what I don’t need to get everything that I do.”
Here's the thing: I read no indication that he knew what he was saved unto. He’s not dead, but he’s not exactly strolling the streets of Jerusalem either. As far as he knows, he’s the living definition of an actual fish dinner. All of his “worthless idols” or his plans for his own life are back on the shore and he is lost in the depths of the sea. So what’s he letting go of? What’s he sacrificing?
His will. His wants. The things that he hoped and wished and waited for. He’s sacrificing his longing for anything else but God. He’s acknowledging that worthless idols are not faithful, that only God is true. The minute that he does that? The minute he says: “I will sacrifice (or let get of my longing for) everything else with thankfulness because I get to have You” the Lord commands the fish, it vomits him onto dry land, and SNAP!
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” and Jonah gets up and treks off to Nineveh immediately and delivers the word of the Lord because all at once who he has to speak to doesn’t matter as much as who is speaking to him.
And all at once, me? Well, apparently, I do like green eggs and ham. “I will hear You on a plane or I will hear You on a train! I will hear You in the snow, or in the sleet, or in the rain. Or in a pit. Or in a lion’s den. Or in some great fish’s digestive system. Whether mouths are being shut or I’m being swallowed up, if You are in it, that’s enough.”
I don’t care where I have to go, what it takes, or what You take from me. Just. Speak. I’m listening.
“I hold on faithfully to things that will not be faithful to me. However, now I know that if I sacrifice those, I will be saved. I give what I don’t need, to get everything that I do.”