Our pastor asked us this question on Sunday as he began a series on the person of Jonah, the poster prophet for running from God. Pastor Herb suggested we might be tempted to run from a calling to another country, maybe one where westerners aren’t welcome. I found myself surprised that a specific location hadn’t even crossed my mind. No, for me it’s not “please don’t call me to that place.” My “places” are more internal. Maybe I’m not alone.
We run when our existence is threatened, Herb said. We are, at the core, self-centered people, which is the heart of the book of Jonah. God was calling him not just to a place, but to a surrender of the heart. That, maybe more than Nineveh, was the place he didn’t want to go.
So he ran toward Tarshish. Not sure what made Tarshish so appealing. Me, I run too, but in smaller, less obvious ways (because I don’t know how to get to Tarshish). I run by staying busy, too busy to reflect on my heart, too busy to hear from God. I run by convincing myself I’ve given enough, done enough.
I run from surrender when deeper, more exposed to God, more aware of my sin, is not a place I want to be. I want Him to call me somewhere else, somewhere that feels significant, some place where I look good and successful and admirable, and I don’t have to own the mess inside.
God leaves us in places of unresolved circumstances to do a deeper work in us. For Jonah, it was a big fish for three days. I can’t say how grateful I am that God has never felt He needed to throw me in a whale to get my attention. For me, it’s places of unanswered prayer, unexpected disappointment, unmet desire. These are places I would rather not be, but they are the places where God can bring me to the surrender that needs to happen for me to go deeper in Christ and further in mission.
This was a good reminder for me, to ask myself whether I am willing to sit in the places where He takes me, rather than trying to scramble out to a more pleasant existence. I need to surrender to His work within me.
What about you? Are you running from Him, or are you surrendering to His work?
Gina and her husband, Erik, have served with Cru for more than 15 years, 13 of which were spent overseas. They recently returned to the U.S. with their two kids, and serve now with Global Leadership. Gina enjoys writing, speaking, and coaching other women, particularly in issues surrounding transition and living wholeheartedly. You will love her blog, The View from Here. Friend her on Facebook.