Have you ever said NO to God? I have. Many times, in fact. Fear and lack of bravery holds me back far too often. One time in particular sticks out in my memory as a Jonah experience…here’s what I wrote two years ago about it:
Years ago, I used to read those verses in Jonah 1:1-3 and think…what is this guy’s problem? Does he really think that he can run from the Lord? That was then. This is now…and NOW I have realized something: Jonah and me….we have this problem. We are in the same boat. Sometimes literally. I am quite sure that Jonah is somewhere in my family lineage way back. I’m just way too much like him to not be related.
You see, the more I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that He sometimes calls us to do uncomfortable things. Crazy things. Hard things. Ridiculous things. Awkward things. Radical things. Way-outside-our-box things. All for His glory.
That being said, I have a major confession to make. I have to tell you an inside story to a weekend event a few weeks ago…
There is a wonderful sweet lady in my community named Pam, that I know and we have come to do ministry together. About a year ago, she came and asked me to speak at a women’s conference. She wanted a “warm up speaker” for an annual Christian women’s event in February 2016 called Ladies Day Away.
I said NO.
She asked me again.
I said NO.
Third time is a charm, right? She asked me again. I decided to get spiritual and say “I will pray about it”.
How many of you know that when you pray about something you better be ready to get a green light? I fought with God. Actually, I FOUGHT WITH GOD. I argued. I pleaded. I tried to convince Him that I wasn’t the one. The more I begged, the more He gave me counsel through His Word that He wanted me. I felt stuck. I knew better than to say NO to God, but this is one of those times that I seriously debated jumping on a boat headed for Tarshish. Or one heading anywhere but speaking to this group in February 2016.
Jonah and me. We have issues.
Lots of conversations with my parents followed…they know me better than anyone, but most importantly, they know my Jesus and they could see the struggle in me. They prayed for me, with me, and encouraged me to obey and trust God for the details. I was stuck. Everywhere I turned I heard my name called. Every verse I turned to was telling me to go. Every song I heard was about obedience. Every voice was telling me to listen to my Heavenly Father. The sky seemed to spell out neon signs: “GO AND SPEAK”. I was caught…scared to death to disobey God’s leading and equally as frightened to walk in the path the Lord was asking me to.
Pam is a sweet and patient woman. She wouldn’t take NO for an answer. She kept telling me that she felt God wanted me to speak. She also asked me on several occasions: “do you ever feel like you have a whale on your tail?” I knew what she meant…she was calling me a Jonah. Wow, did she ever know me, or what?
Jonah and the whale became our standing joke. Whenever we talked about it, there was some sort of exchange about Jonah or a whale. Comments like “well, I don’t want to be swallowed by a whale” were common. We weren’t just laughing though, we knew it was serious business to disobey our all-powerful God.
I finally said YES. Reluctantly. I stood on the brink of the unknown feeling terrified to move forward, but even more scared to death to turn back. God wanted my submission…my obedience. He wanted all of me. My fearful heart. My uncertain future. My inabilities and corks. He wanted me…FULLY and FREELY. He wanted 100% of Faith Walker.
I have to tell you, once I said YES, it did feel better inside. Obedience always gives way to freedom, but don’t think for one moment that I felt like I was out of the woods. No ma’am. I was now only at the beginning of a very long road that I felt would surely lead to my death. Crazy how our imaginations run wild, isn’t it?
For months, every time I prepared part of my message to share…God would tell me it was all wrong. I would crumble the paper and start over. I would try again. Cram it in the trash. This went on for months.
In the meantime, God was dealing with my fears. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I am not a fan of public speaking. Hate is a strong word, but I might even use that word in conjunction with speaking. Speaking for Bible study sessions on video even nerve me up (little plug for our online Bible studies!). I’m totally serious. I’ve had meetings with three people that make me squirm. No joke. I’m just not the limelight-lover. Everything about this event made me want to throw up.
Added to that was the fact that the majority of these ladies would be moms and grandmas…neither one of which I am. Teen girls I get. Children, babies and toddlers I can handle. But women? Why does that make me worm in my seat? I honestly felt God had made a horrible mistake. Pam kept me well-informed of the registration numbers coming in and every time I wanted to barf. I would go right to God and remind Him of what a mess I was going to make for Him in February if He didn’t do something.
So, He did. Instead of fixing the event or letting me off the hook, He opened His Word one morning. It hit me between the eyes…or at gut level.
“The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am only a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. This is the Lord’s declaration. Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words. See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.” Jeremiah 1:4-10 (HCSB)
HE was speaking in February. I was just the mouth piece with which He was going to do it through. And who was I to question His abilities to use a weak, young, blubbering, scared-to-death girl from a little town in Southern Michigan to complete His work? I kept thinking about Jonah.
Jonah and me have doubting problems. We have better ideas. More qualified friends. We have more comfortable plans for our future. Ones that don’t involve dangerous or unpleasant things. Like telling others about Jesus when they don’t want to hear about it…forget that they are facing judgment…Jonah and me value our safety!
Time and again, God convicted me of my UNBELIEF. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith (no pun intended). He is my soul’s Anchor and the King of kings. He is Creator of all and Keeper of eternity. Why do I doubt His ability to use a fragile person…when He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has breathed the stars into existence?
I have a puny view of God…so I view impossible situations like that impossible. Forgetting that my Jesus is the God of the impossible. The Lord of everything. He is Love. He is Life. And He is the Writer of my life story…how dare I grab the pen and tell Him He is writing it all wrong?
The day arrived and I could feel a peaceful rest fall on me. Inside I felt waves of nervousness and uncertainty, but each time I felt incompetent, I reminded myself that this was His ball game…I was just along for the ride! There were dozens of prayer warriors scattered across the United States praying for me. I read the two passages of Scripture that God had given me over and over, quieting my turbulent heart. The section in Jeremiah and also a part in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
“For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
I prayed as I’ve never prayed before. Putting on the headset microphone and staring at the stage, I thought…this has got to be a dream (or a nightmare!). Jonah and me. I told you we have trust issues. I kept hearing God’s voice…asking me to lean like I had never leaned before. They announced my name. One foot in front of the other, Faith. Just don’t barf. 20 minutes and it will be over. I stepped foot on the platform…and a miracle happened. All fear vanished. All the butterflies in my stomach, the shaky hands, the dry mouth, GONE. So this is what it means to ride with Jesus!? I’m all in.
After I spoke that Saturday, I felt filled to the brim with joy unspeakable. Obedience does that, doesn’t it? It makes us full as we follow the path of Jesus, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may seem at the time. I was standing at our Polished Cornerstones booth during one of the first breaks in the conference when lovely Miss Pam walked up. She was holding a box. “This is for you darlin!” She handed it to me. It was heavy and I was curious. As I unwrapped the paper, I smiled.
There in all the tissue, was a beautiful glass whale. I laughed. Then I teared up. I’ve been given a lot of gifts over the years, but few have meant as much to me as this little glass whale. Why? Because it has a story. A story that beckons me to follow Jesus…or else. Jonah and me…we sometimes learn the hard way.
What about you, friend? Has God called you to do something dangerous or uncomfortable and you’re looking for a boat to Tarshish? Take it from someone who is a fellow whale-on-the-tail gal…He will not call you and then leave you unequipped. He will give you exactly what you need at the precise moment you need it (and probably not a moment sooner!). Why? Because He loves using weak people to showcase His glory! Your inabilities are a beautiful way for Him to shine through you! Riding with Jesus is always an adventure, friend. Why not say, YES…and then watch Him show up in a bigger way than you’ve ever imagined? You can do ALL THINGS through HIM who strengthens you!
I’ve had people ask me, will I speak again? I laugh…nervously. Can I be honest? I still feel like Jonah. If God asked me to stand on a stage again and speak to 400 women I would feel like running for Joppa (to find a ship to Tarshish) AND throwing up. That’s my knee-jerk reaction. Just because I’ve obeyed once doesn’t mean I will jump into speaking engagements or other uncomfortable situations every time God brings one around. No ma’am. I will be slow and deliberate and cautious. Really…because I KNOW that if Jesus isn’t in it, it will be a miserable failure. I’m not a public speaker. I’m just a child (along with Jeremiah), I’m a coward at times (like Gideon), I’m broken and scared (like Moses), and I’m for sure a runner (like Jonah). So…to answer that question: I hope that by God’s grace I will answer YES to whatever opportunities God asks me to fulfill. God doesn’t need my confidence, He just wants my obedience.
For all the uncertainty and fear and unknowns, it was a great day. I had fun. I learned a lot. I had many wonderful conversations. Actually, come to think of it and to quote my ever-smart mother, “we had a whale of a good time”!