1-2 One day long ago, God’s Word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.” 3 But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish—as far away from God as he could get. 4-6 But God sent a huge storm at sea, the waves towering.The ship was about to break into pieces. The sailors were terrified. They called out in desperation to their gods. They threw everything they were carrying overboard to lighten the ship. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship to take a nap. He was sound asleep. The captain came to him and said, “What’s this? Sleeping! Get up! Pray to your god! Maybe your god will see we’re in trouble and rescue us.”7 Then the sailors said to one another, “Let’s get to the bottom of this. Let’s draw straws to identify the culprit on this ship who’s responsible for this disaster.” So they drew straws. Jonah got the short straw. 8 Then they grilled him: “Confess. Why this disaster? What is your work? Where do you come from? What country? What family?” 9 He told them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land.” 10 At that, the men were frightened, really frightened, and said, “What on earth have you done!” As Jonah talked, the sailors realized that he was running away from God. 11 They said to him, “What are we going to do with you—to get rid of this storm?” By this time the sea was wild, totally out of control. 12 Jonah said, “Throw me overboard, into the sea. Then the storm will stop. It’s all my fault. I’m the cause of the storm. Get rid of me and you’ll get rid of the storm.” 13 But no. The men tried rowing back to shore. They made no headway. The storm only got worse and worse, wild and raging. 14 Then they prayed to God, “O God! Don’t let us drown because of this man’s life, and don’t blame us for his death. You are God. Do what you think is best.” 15 They took Jonah and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea was quieted down. 16 The sailors were impressed, no longer terrified by the sea, but in awe of God. They worshiped God, offered a sacrifice, and made vows. 17 Then God assigned a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the fish’s belly three days and nights.
Jonah 1:1-17 (The Message)
Our love was seamless. Don’t get me wrong we fought, we had our issues, but we had a plan. Our relationship was honest, real and it was perfect for me. In December of 2016 I was supposed to get married. I’m not here to tell you all the drama, gossip, or ugly things you probably want to hear (Lets be honest, if I was in your shoes I would be reading, hoping for a read that would feel like I’m watching an episode of the bachelor) Instead, I am here to tell you all of the lessons I have learned over a course of the year. This is the year I was thrown into the ocean of grace, swallowed by a fish, vomited out, and forced to face the God that I had placed on the back burner.
Honesty, transparency, and vulnerability are three of the scariest words in the English language because it means that you have to put your pride and the mask you hide behind down. When the boy I loved walked out I was afraid of so many things, but on the top of that list was being afraid of what people would think or say of me. For the first weeks even though probably few knew I felt like I could feel every room whisper: “What’s wrong with her that she can’t keep her man?”, “She’s crazy, I am sure that’s why he left”, “I never thought they would work out anyway”, “It’s because she’s chubby” or everything and anything else I was self-conscious about. I spent weeks worrying about something that was far out of my control. My mask and pride were way down because the person I hid most behind was gone. I soon learned that the rumor weed would grow things that I wouldn’t have imagined. Things like “She cheated on him.” , “He never loved her.”, “He only dated her because her parents have money.” and the list goes on. Although our break up was not mean or ugly it still doesn’t stop people from talking. Here is the truth no matter what you do people are going to talk about you. As Christians we are constantly put in a glass house and that’s part of the burden we carry, when the mask comes down and pride is no longer there, we are forced to become transparent, vulnerable and honest with those around us. When the rumor weed grows and people talk about you or what is happening to you the thought and fear of that becomes less scary because everything is out on the table, the light is present and the darkness it no longer there. You have nothing left to hide behind and people will see Christ because He is what is left. When your thrown off the boat and nervous about what people will say about you or whats happening just start by being honest. When the storm came and Jonah knew God was angry he told the men to throw him off the boat. They at first refused but eventually agreed, and once they did the storm was calm and the waves settled and the men on the boat began to respect and praise God. Jonah was honest, transparent, and vulnerable and stepping into the story that would he would be remembered for.
As the weeks continued I would also learn I lost a huge part of my identity. The person I had become and how I would describe myself was no longer there. When you love someone you start to morph into one person. People no longer call you by your name but “Her and Him.” The person you love becomes a safe place and who you go to as a source of encouragement, laughter, joy, a shoulder to cry on, peace, comfort, ect.. and when that person is gone it is a huge realty check. I still struggle with feeling like my corner is empty. I blame myself for the pressure I am sure it put on him to be my corner man. I remember the first couple of months the only person I really wanted comfort from was him, I wanted to go back when we started dating and we were on opposite sides of Texas and some nights we would fall asleep talking on the phone or FaceTiming. During those first couple months after the break up I had to refocus my thoughts and keep my eyes set to the ultimate healer and comforter. To the girls who haven’t dated and are dating, be careful who becomes your God. It is such an easy and fine line to cross when the boy you are dating becomes the thing you desire most. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress that I caused expecting someone who was human to fill the God sized hole I had. If he reads this I hope he knows I am sorry.
Everyone has a “swallowed by a fish” season. Sometimes when our “fish” swallows us when we don’t realize we are running from God. I think my broken engagement was my ‘fish” and I think it vomited me out when it was finally over and my heart was set on God and not a man. I never thought in the years of the boy I loved and I dating that he had set my focus away from the God who deserves all my attention. I think when something in your life is good it is hard because we assume because this is good than it must be a God thing so that means I am pleasing God. Don’t get me wrong doing good does please God but in this case he was no longer my first and although my fiance being was first wasn’t bad it wasn’t pleasing to God. God gives us free will, we have the ability to make our own decisions, I know that sometimes I make decisions and expect God to roll with it without giving thought or prayer to God. When something is good I tend to dive head first because it is good I assume that its the right answer. Sometimes good is good but God is whispering I have better trust me. As much as we rag on Jonah I think he had some guts to be thrown off the boat, and take the literal leap of faith. I give him mad props for willing to admit he had fault. When my engagement came to end and everything was done I was terrified, I didn’t understand what happened and I wasn’t sure of what was to come. I related with Jonah because at some point you have to make a sacrifice and say “THROW ME OFF THE BOAT” and hope the grace of the good God we serve catches you. All though you may not see being in the belly of a fish as a blessing and it will definitely be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
When Jonah was thrown off the boat the storm stopped and everyone around made promises to serve the Lord. The way we react when our storms come heavily influence those who are watching us. Have you ever been driving and watched someone with a Jesus bumper sticker throw the bird at the driver who just cut them off. It changes the way you view that person and makes you question their beliefs. I know that Paul wasn’t being sarcastic when he said to consider all trials pure joy. I think most of us if not all of us can look at someone we know and think HOW DID YOU HANDLE THAT AWFUL THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU SO WELL??!!?? I think when your “fish” swallows you first become humble and you let the walls down then you realize 1. I can become bitter or 2. I can decide to keep running for the kingdom knowing that what is here doesn’t compare to what is eternal knowing the grace of God.
As soon as he returned home from a trip and was checked out I knew my biggest fear was becoming a realty and the relationship I had poured everything into was over but what I didn’t know was I was about to experience the overwhelming presence of God’s grace. Over the course of 3 weeks I prayed relentlessly as our relationship ended. My prayers inside the belly of a fish began with fixing our relationship with desperation and ended with grace. I know that when most people think of grace they think of the prodigal son, someone who has run away from God and is coming back. In this story of redemption, grace is the five-letter word that would hold my shattered heart through a season of life that was the total opposite of what I had planned. I learned that showering someone with grace who doesn’t deserve it or recognize it is what God does for me DAILY. Showering the man I loved who no longer loved me back with grace was a journey I didn’t know would in turn be the best thing and have the most impact on me. When God open my heart to the idea I thought “That’s a great idea I’ll kill him with kindness and he will realize how awesome I am”. What God had planned was for him I am sure (and I am sure he has his own version of this story) but I believe God had me shower him with grace for me. When I wanted to throw a fit, say mean things, yell and all the other things that have crossed my mind God would whisper grace. So when things aren’t happening the way you want, you take a breath and respond through grace goggles and when you respond through grace goggles your heart changes. My love for the boy was so small in comparison to God’s love for me, so I can only imagine how easy it is for God to respond with grace goggles for me. The grace that my savior showers on me endlessly is such a gift because it was so difficult sometimes to give grace to the boy I loved who hurt me deeply, so to God every sin hurts Him so deeply yet he so freely gives without thought. When you are in the belly of the fish hit the floor and pray. When your life revolves around prayer God begins to speak and you learn that although were you are may be dark there is still a light and a way.
Don’t think I got though this so easy without any Facebook creeping, heartache, tears, stress, ect…. I definitely have moments I wish I had done something different or handle things different but my biggest regret and the thing I want everyone to hear is don’t loose your friends when you get swallowed by a fish. I have a bad problem of not talking about my feelings, I like to avoid or just make everything better by apologizing. When all of this was happening I pushed some of my closest friends away. To my friends that I lost or pushed away please know I truly regret it. I am so sadden by the lose I feel without you. When your friends don’t know how to respond or you feel forgotten by their response, understand that they are human too. When you have your swallowed by a fish moment you feel isolated just like Satan intended, so when you push your friends away you let Satan win. When you go through your swallowed by a fish moment cling to your friends that are leading you to Jesus and trust them.
Although I don’t know if I am completely vomited back out I know one thing for sure, the course the Lord has set for me now great than one I could have ever imagined. I am excited for the journey ahead. Knowing that whatever is to come I am going to run the race I have left, don’t worry I’m clumsy so I will fall again but now that though being thrown off the boat into the ocean of grace which is a place I know I have full membership to. All in all I am thankful he walked away. I am thankful because it taught me how to stand on my own two feet. I am also thankful because it pointed me back to the creator who was longing for my attention. I am thankful for the friends who have dealt with my grouchiness, tears, sarcastic comments, and all around ugliness. I am thankful for friends couches. I am thankful for spear bedrooms. I am thankful for Taco Villa buck Mondays. I am thankful for dinner on Wednesday’s. I am thankful for Dr Pepper and Pure water. I am thankful for the notes of encouragement and the prayers I never knew about. I am thankful for my family who have encouraged, supported, and cheered without complaining. I am thankful for my parents friends who loved me like their own. I am thankful for “adopted” parents. I am thankful for everyone who has spoken light into my darkness. Seasons change and with each season we learn something new and we grow. So when your season changes trust God because being in the belly of the fish might be the best thing that has ever happened to you. I pray when your time comes to get thrown into the ocean of grace, swallowed by a “fish” and then vomited into God’s glorious light, that you feel comfort knowing God never let go.