I’m a little stuck in my Ecclesiastes study right now, so I thought I’d take a break and travel down a different path than where I’ve been writing from. Since we finished up our Jonah study, and it’s unlikely I will be able to make the final meeting, I thought it would be appropriate to write about what I took from that study…what my own personal “divine interruption” is and how I’m progressing.
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3 ESV)
The story of Jonah is not so unlike my life. Jonah runs away from God because he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. In a similar way, I have spent most of my life running from something. Insecurity used to have a huge hold on me, and kept me from fully embracing who I am. As a kid, I felt inferior around those I deemed were “better” than me. In fact, that attitude persisted a lot longer than it should have. It led me to make some really bad decisions, and not have the confidence to be completely comfortable in myself. At the time, I did not have a relationship with God, and often sought out acceptance in the wrong places.
When I became a Christian, I was a huge Angela Thomas fan. Our church started a support group for single moms and we read “My Single Mom Life”. I loved her down to earth style of writing and felt compelled to buy every Angela Thomas book I could find. One day, I came across a book and journal study called “Do You Think I’m Beautiful”, and while I totally disregarded the whole premise of God finding me beautiful or having a ‘romance’ with me, I bought it anyway and promptly filed it away in my nightstand.
In January of 2009, I was at a pretty low place in my life. I remembered the book and began reading and going through the workbook. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed this study to better understand the patterns in my life. It seemed that a lot of my poor decisions were related to my negative self-esteem. The study was eye opening and addictive, and landed me in the pastor’s office on a couple of occasions, as I tried to come to terms with everything I was learning about myself!
By the end of the study, I felt confident in God’s love and that He did see me as beautiful. I was passionate about Bible study and became very involved in the women’s ministry in my church. I knew I was being called to help other people overcome their self-esteem issues and become empowered by Christ’s love. The problem was that while I felt changed, I wasn’t comfortable showing everyone that I was a “new creation”. It wasn’t intentional, but I was almost living a double life – I acted “Christian” around “Christian” people, and “normal” around everyone else. I truly wanted people to see Christ in me, but He wasn’t shining through me in the manner He deserved.
But, God wasn’t finished with me….
When I started the Jonah study this fall, I wasn’t sure what “divine interruption” was taking place in my life. I considered that it was being single, but that’s been my life; it’s all I’ve known, hardly an “interruption”. I prayed about it and started getting to know people at my new church. It then became clear… God was telling me that I need to be who He has created me to be, all of the time, to everyone!
I always considered myself to be “real” and “open”, but I became aware that I was afraid to show the “world” that I was a completely sold-out Jesus freak, and afraid to share my story with Christians who seemed to have it all together. In other words, I was “real” and “open” when it was safe, but mostly afraid to completely step out of the box to glorify God and let Him work through me.
This Jonah study, along with the well timed encouragement of friends, has really helped me come out of my shell. Not only do I know God loves me and has a great plan for my life, I’m willing to let Him use me in any way He desires, even if it’s scary! This isn’t to say that I won’t have periods of self-doubt or insecurity in myself or where He’s leading me, but I am committed to follow Him wherever He leads, even if that means I have to go to Nineveh!
Usually I close with scripture, but today I want to close with a passage from my favorite children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. Oh, I have always loved the words of the Skin Horse; such wisdom!! I look forward to a day where we can all be “real” and be exactly who God made us to be, without condemnation, guilt, or shame!
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”