Monday, June 2, 2008

The Bigger Picture: I don't really like whales

It seems we've visited the land of the Green Bay Packers and all the cheese you can eat for the last time -- at least, we've spent our last days there due to it being where John was staffed for a work project.
I must admit, though, that I'm glad to have had this experience; I realize this is a drastic change of thought since I pretty much internally (and externally) whined about the situation for a good four weeks ... maybe more, but who's counting?

No, I didn't particularly enjoy John having to travel four hours there and back every week to go to work in Wisconsin, especially during the weeks G and I could not join him. No, it wasn't really a whole lot of fun draggin G's billions of pounds of accessories around with us when all three of us were able to spend the week there. Getting attacked by bedbugs wasn't particularly fun either. And, yes, people stared at us when we took walks while wearing G in the carrier, and they almost laughed in our faces when we asked for things like soy yogurt at the grocery store. (After all, it is the dairy state ...) But in the end, I see why the journey was necessary, and I understand why it was important.

But I didn't come to these realizations until I read the story of Jonah in the Bible. If you don't know the story, it goes something like this: Jonah was a prophet. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh to tell the people about Him so that they would change their ways and honor the Lord. Jonah didn't want to go because he didn't think the people of Nineveh deserved God's grace; Jonah didn't think the people deserved to be forgiven. He thought it might be a good idea to try and outrun the Lord, so he tried to sail to a different place. God was pissed. God sent a storm to the sea and rocked the boat in which Jonah was riding. The crew members were scared, and they really wanted to the storm to stop, so they threw Jonah overboard after Jonah said they should because it was really only him with whom God was angry. So they sent him overboard, and God calmed the sea. And then Jonah was swallowed by a really big fish, probably a whale, because that's probably the only fish in the water that could swallow Jonah whole and not kill him. It was there that Jonah decided he couldn't escape from God, and he asked God to help a brother out. So the Lord compelled the fish to spit Jonah out, and Jonah finally went to Nineveh to tell the people about the Lord. They repented, but Jonah was mad at God for not punishing them for all the wrong they had done. (Oh, the irony is thick in this story.) Some people never learn.

But I'm learning.

While I wasn't commissioned by God to go to Wisconsin and serve as a prophet to renew the hearts of the people, I do think we were asked to go there for a reason. Why? We needed to learn that God always provides even when it seems like he's left us stranded inside the belly of a whale. We needed to learn that even when we've doubted Him or dishonored Him or disobeyed Him, that He still extends His forgiveness to us. This kind of grace can't be earned because we'd never be able to earn it. It's something the Lord gives us as a gift.

I moaned and groaned about John leaving for Wisconsin every week during the times when G and I had to stay home. I pitched a fit about being left to care for the baby mostly by myself and having to take care of all the hard work alone during the weeks we didn't go. I could not understand why God had not provided John with a project closer to home when I had a baby to care for, a new house to get ready and life to contend with.

I doubted, and I was angry about the project. But God provided. I don't deserve to have God's grace, neither did Jonah or the Ninehvites, but we received it anyway. And because we've messed up and yet still receive grace from God, we should extend that same kind of grace to the people in our lives who've screwed up. It's not easy, but I'm working on it.

And that's why we had to go to Wisconsin; I needed to learn about grace and apply it to my life -- not exactly the calling of a prophet, but rather the calling of a merciful Parent who wanted to explain the very core of His being to an undeserving child. I take it back, I guess this post does have a little bit to do with parenting.

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