Have you ever read the story of Jonah? And by that I don’t mean, were you ever in Sunday School when they talked about the guy who got swallowed by a whale? I mean, have you actually read it for yourself? In the Bible?
The basic summary of the story is that Jonah runs from God, God finds him, God delivers him, and Jonah fulfills the calling God gave him in Chapter One. Sounds like a pretty standard story. But here’s the thing that I find sets Jonah apart from all the other Biblical heroes: There’s absolutely no turnaround in his life. No repentance. Sure, Chapter Two is one, big, flowery prayer in which Jonah cries out for deliverance, but he never actually apologizes for disobeying God. Not once.
With a heart every bit as bitter as it was the day he first ran, Jonah goes to Nineveh where he preaches this big sermon of, “God will pour his wrath out upon you sinners.” He doesn’t tell them to repent… but they do.
And instead of rejoicing in the miracle God has performed through his message, Jonah gets angry and storms out of the city, begging God to take his life. “I’m angry enough to die,” he says. And that’s where our story leaves him.
It would almost be laughable if it weren’t so sad.
I wonder if Jonah ever got it. I wonder if he ever came to terms with his calling. I wonder if he ever went back to rejoice with the people of Nineveh, or if he avoided that city for the rest of his miserable existence.
Perhaps we’ll never know what happened to Jonah, but we can make sure this doesn’t become our story. I can’t speak for you, but I know that I don’t want to be the kind of person who is so full of hatred that I refuse to answer God’s call. I don’t want to be the one who flees from the miracles God would perform in and through my life.
I want to be the kind of vessel that would bring repentance and instill life in the hearts of hundreds and thousands of people. But I know that repentance starts right here in this heart of mine.
So this is me, apologizing for all the times I’ve run away—all the times I’ve sought Tarshish when there are 120,000 people awaiting the words I’ve been commanded to speak. This is me, coming to terms with my calling and determining to find joy in doing the will of God.
For those of us who desire to glorify God with our lives, this is the point of surrender.