Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Name Isn’t Jonah – Yet: Some Thoughts on Following God's Plan for Me.

I like to know what the end results are going to be; or at least I used to think so. But the more I think about it, the less it seems like such a good idea. Besides, things usually don’t turn out the way I plan them, so why get my heart set on outcomes that probably aren’t going to happen.

A little over 30 years ago I was living in the Los Angeles area and decided to join the military. I hadn’t even heard back from the recruiter yet before I made plans to spend 20 years at overseas bases, and then return to Hollyweird where I would make a few movies at several million each, and then retire to a beach house from where I would write scathing political reviews.

My life didn’t turn out that way. Yes, I did put on a uniform, but I didn’t spend quite 20 years, and only half of that time was spent overseas. I still haven’t made any movies, in fact I don’t even watch many movies; California beaches are a few states away, and it’s hard to find someone still breathing who’s less interested than me in politics.

And then there are the plans that God has for me and my life. And I’m positive that knowing them in great detail would have been a disaster. In fact as I look back over even the last 10 years, I still can’t believe where He’s brought me. And if I’d known then where He planned on me being today I would have changed my name to Jonah. As in Jonah and the whale, or the giant fish, or whatever that thing was where Jonah spent 3 days.

Nope, my name would have been changed from Karl to “No Way am I going to Nineveh – I’m sneaking onto a boat and sailing off to Tarshish.

Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing inherently wrong with where I am today and what I’m doing. Utah’s not all that bad a place to be; I like (most of the time) all 3 of my part time jobs; and there’s nothing scary about going back to school at the young age of 59. Well, maybe school is a little scary.

But the deal is I wanted to be on the beach - snow is pretty to look at, but shovels are bad for the back, and icy roads make me nervous. I was looking for a Bible study that I could do in my spare time while working at some kind of job with regular hours, not a Master of Divinity program at a theological seminary, not a pastorate, and not a Doctor of Ministry program. But what I thought I was getting into 10 years ago and where God has me now are over-the-top different things.

In other words if God had told me in the year 2000 what I would be doing in 2011, I would have laughed harder than 90 year old Sarai did when they told her she and her even older husband Abrahm were finally going to have that baby. Not gonna happen God! Like Moses, I didn’t do public speaking so I would have laughed hard until it finally sunk in that God wasn’t kidding - that within 5 years I would be delivering a sermon every Sunday - and then I would have turned 180º and started running faster than I thought possible.

But God knew me well enough to anticipate that kind of reaction, so He spoon fed me, moved me one step at a time, offered me opportunities to be faithful with a few things before entrusting me with many things. And before I realized what was happening I got from 2000 to 2011, almost without wishing that I was still on the boat to Tarshish.

If you’re familiar with the story of Jonah, you remember that God saved him from the belly of the whale, just to tell him once again that it was time to head for Nineveh. I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m going to eventually do what God wants, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t need to take some time to get me ready. I wish that I was more obedient than I am, but sometimes I still don’t like what God has in store for me, so maybe its better that I only have to one step at a time, and not the entire trip in one day.

So, if you knew what God had planned for you 10 years from now, what would make you change your name to Jonah?

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