“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Ninevah, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” Jonah 3:1
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Mark 1:17-18
At times I really identify with Jonah. You have to read the whole story to really get the impact, but “in a nutshell,” Jonah was told to go to Ninevah to call them to repentance, and Jonah didn’t want to go. He ran away instead and was swallowed by a big fish. Eventually, even the fish couldn’t stand him, so it spit Jonah up on shore, and that’s where God found him again. God repeated the request for Jonah to go to Ninevah, and so, the reluctant prophet grudgingly went. Much to his surprise, the people and even the animals repented. Instead of being happy about it, though, Jonah sat outside the city gates and pouted. He really didn’t want God to be gracious to the people of Ninevah. Why? Well, we aren’t sure what the writer of this story had in mind, but probably there was some prejudice involved since the people of Ninevah would not have been of the same ethnic background. Of course, Jonah may have just not wanted to do the task God had set up for him to perform.
I suspect that many of us can relate to that, as I mentioned at the beginning. There are days when I wonder why on earth I ever agreed to become a pastor. It sets me up for all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Even a few members of my family seem to think that I’m supposed to act a certain way, always be nice, never use derogatory language, and the list could go on and on. I’m human, imperfect, and a sinner just like everyone else. I don’t have a corner on the “God” connection any more than anyone else, and I don’t have special privileges because I’m ordained as a clergyperson. Of course, there are those who also think I shouldn’t be a pastor because I’m a woman, but maybe that’s another blog all together.
The fact of the matter is that I DID follow God’s call in my life, and like Jonah, I ran away from it for many years. I couldn’t believe that God would call me. Eventually God’s persistence paid off, and I said “yes.” Along with all the frustrations comes those many moments when I say, “Right. That’s why I’m doing this.” There are the times when someone comes up to me and says that something I said made a huge difference in their lives (ME?), or when a family thanks me profusely for the meaningful memorial service for their loved one whom I didn’t even know. Or when someone comes into my office and sits – just sits – in bewilderment, or cries for an hour and a half, or wants to work through a problem in their lives. The amazing thing about it is that they trust me (ME?) to listen, to keep confidentiality, and to care about them.
But it ultimately isn’t about ME! It is about being God’s vessel which leads me to the passage from Mark where Jesus calls the disciples. They left everything to follow him. There must have been something charismatic about him, something special, something that made them want to change their course in life. Okay, so I was a reluctant disciple at the beginning, but I can testify to the fact that Jesus made me want to follow him. There IS something about him – it’s that he points us to God – it’s that he loves us – it’s that he is walking with us through life – it’s that he listens, cares, and guides us. It’s that he died for us and now lives so that we might have life. That’s why I do what I do, as imperfect as I am, God can still work through me.
How about you?