Pathfinding 2: Redeeming Jonah, Redeeming Me

This pathway is made more interesting and fun
with companions like these!
"Love your enemies... do good to those who hate you." I sighed as I read the verses Matthew 5:43 and 44 again and again. "Pray for those who spitefully use you..." I sighed again. I whispered, "It's so hard, Lord."

I am a proud person. In my family, I am probably the most independent, headstrong, and quite a braggart. I needed a heart change. God knows this and this is probably the reason why I am where I am, and going through what I am going through.

When God called Jonah, he had issues. Jonah, though, didn't know this. He thought he was serving God with all his might. God spoke to Him and directed Him what to do and where to go. That was 'the Call'.

I have often heard people say that it would have been good if God would speak to them directly, call them with His own voice. But God does speak to us in our present time. He hasn't left us like orphans to figure out which way to go in our lives. We have His Word that became flesh in Jesus. When I'm in doubt, I grab my Bible, asking God to enlighten my mind that I will be attentive to His voice. I have found His Word to be true and have learned to depend on them, especially in my darkest and most chaotic hours. Despite the chaos and confusion, I find redemption.

Jonah's story is often told and ended right where the fish took him to shore and, repentant, Jonah went to where God told him to go, humbled and zealous to do what God had bid him to do. This time he is obedient and willing to serve God. But just as the first part of Jonah's story--- his wandering and repentance--- is important, so is the second part, for which I find even more crucial to a Christian's journey, particularly my journey. This is because the second part is really where the focal point of God's hard work is.

I have walked through the first part of Jonah's story in the first thirty years of my life. I had the call, made choices, run away, got through storms and have been saved out of my predicament through God's grace. Now I realize that I'm also walking a similar pathway that Jonah had taken right after he was deposited by the fish on the shore. I'm not saying I won't get to live out the first part again, but presently, I acknowledge that God is leading me to link the pathway of my life to His Way through the second part of Jonah's story.

Here's why. (If you missed the first part, here's the link.)

Jonah was on the run, went as far away from God as he physically could, caused a storm and was swallowed by a fish.

In the belly of the fish, he was repentant and praised God for being merciful to him despite of his willfulness.

Doing God's work

After being in the fish's belly for three days and nights, the fish threw him up out to shore and Jonah resolved to do God's work. He zealously went through the business of getting God's message to the Ninevites and... they believed him. The king even issued for every citizen and even animals to fast, asking God for forgiveness. Wow, that's quite an amazing result for an evangelistic effort. The whole city believed.

I believe that because of his runaway experience and his taking up residence in a fish' belly for three days, Jonah's preaching was full of conviction. There is no substitute to experiencing God first-hand. With God's Spirit evidently working in Jonah's life, his evangelistic endeavor was a success.

Each one of us has a unique space to fill in God's kingdom and His vast field that no one else can fill. That's why we are each given different interests, circumstances, experiences and gifts, and with the same passion that made Jesus to give His life up of us, the Holy Spirit will work it all out with amazing results.

As the seed grows into a tree and bears fruits without its knowledge and help, God works in our hearts and lives and into other people's lives to produce the same results that Jonah did. It is all up to God. Only He can touch and change hearts. And, oh, how He changes hearts.
A Pathfinder.
Was going to go through a very dark tunnel.

Redeeming hearts

With the success that he had at Nineveh, anybody would have been elated. But not Jonah. Seeing the people of Nineveh's repentance, God relented from the conditional consequence of their evil doing and forgave them. This made Jonah mad. He was angry that God was merciful. He did not realize that he, himself, was a recipient of God's mercy and in no way should begrudge others of it.

Sometimes doing work in God's vineyard, we think we are excluded from struggles. But that's where the actual battle occurs, in us, not in other people's lives.

The God of mercy once again prepared something to help Jonah out of his distress brought about by the rotten condition of his heart. Going out from the city and looking to see what would happen to it,  Jonah made a makeshift shelter and God made a gourd to grow over it to provide him shade from the heat of the sun. It relieved him, until God sent a worm to damage it. And it did so much damage that when the sun shone and beat on him, Jonah was livid. He was so upset that he wished himself to die. That's how rotten the condition of his heart was.

God does prepare blessings for us that make us feel we are untouchables. But He also sends worms. Not to punish us, but to redeem us. When a worm comes, we are disrupted from the safe cocoon of blessings that surround us and feel distressed. But as always, God works for the purpose of redeeming His people. It is His purpose to fill our needs. Any mar of sin within us has to be worked out.

Jonah was made to see the condition of his heart. He felt sorry for the plant but felt no remorse at all if the men, women, children and the animals of Nineveh die. His heart was too full of hatred and God cannot allow him to live like that.

I am so glad I have a God like that.

God redeems. He redeemed Jonah and He is doing so with me.

Living pathways

It is hard to look at myself for who I really am. But it is not what I or any Christian are told to do. We are admonished in Hebrews 12:2 to only look at Jesus. He loved those who hate Him even to the point of death. My poor self can only produce nothing.

So when Jesus said "Love your enemies", we are living His Way, in the same way that He lived and died for us. Jesus is fulfilling through our lives the potential to redeem us in all our human situations. We are His living pathways, whatever is our reality.

Wherever or whatever is our place right now is the right place--- a place for growth and a road to becoming a channel of His redeeming love. I have been questioning, just as I had done plenty of times before in my life, why I am where I am, or whether I am in the right place. But just as the sunlight shines on everyone, God's light penetrates through our circumstances, decisions, gifts or weaknesses and make it the right place to be and live out His life.

Soon I will have the privilege to work on the earthly soil with my hands. I know that whatever I plant I will sow. The earth stays on the ground, willing to be worked on, ploughed, digged, turned over by the gardener. The sunlight works its miracle and together--- earth and sun--- they grow plants, trees and flowers to fruitbearing. In the same way as we humbly accept the place where we are--- our present circumstances, our gifts and weaknesses, our existing relationships--- with an attitude of openness, not blaming or taking credit, or without resentment, we will find the beginning of a heart change we so need. Our Gardener will work on us, ploughing and turning over the soil of our hearts, only if we, like the earth, will humbly let Him and His Spirit to shine on us, causing the seeds of love to grow and bear fruit.

The ploughing and digging has caused distress but Jesus has said, "Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart... and you will find rest" (Matthew 11:29). In seeking to adopt a Christ-like attitude to what we have and where we are, we will find rest from all the battles we are fighting against, whether against our own flesh, circumstances or people. That's why Jesus dearly wants us to take His yoke. He said, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (verse 30).

It is an invitation to be a living pathway--- His Way. The alternative looks so heavy and hard, burdened with all kinds of sinful emotions and thoughts, that there really is no alternative. We can only move through His Spirit into exploring ways to be His channels. It is a more glorious choice.

Taking God's yoke I can...

  • accept my present, with a positive attitude knowing that God is on it.
  • actively seek to bring life and love into where I am.

I can almost hear God talking to me as He talked to Jonah, "Love as I've loved you." Looking at Him, my heart is broken, freed to love.

You may also like to read...

Pathfinding 1: The Jonah Journey
His Will
My Desire


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