Everyone needs a whale.
Okay, let me more biblically correct: Everyone needs a BIG FISH.
Jonah needed one. If you don’t know the story (or even if you do), let me sum it up and put it into perspective.
God calls a Jonah to a task. Jonah refuses and flees on a boat. God raises a storm. Jonah says, “Sorry, guys, my bad, throw me overboard.” Done. BIG FISH swallows Jonah and later vomits him up on a beach. Jonah FINALLY gets to the task God called him to.
Short question: What has God called you to do?
Hard question: Why are you NOT doing it?
Harder question: What will it take to get you to DO IT?
I talk to people all the time about what they want to see God do in their lives. What they don’t realize oftentimes, is that they’re vocalizing a calling:
“Sometimes, I’ve thought about going into ministry.”
“God called me to ministry when I was 19 years old, but life had other plans.”
“I really wish I had the time and energy to minister to people in my neighborhood.”
“I have a heart for teenagers, but I’m so busy.”
“I’m waiting for God to show me some sort of sign.”
“I would go, God, but why…there?”
In these statements, I hear the calling. But I see many Jonahs on their respective boats fleeing from their God. There is calling, but no obedience. (And I’ve uttered one or two of them myself).
Oh, and just because I want to confound the issue even further…
Sometimes, other people TELL US what they think our calling is, and we listen to that and pursue only that.
“We know what your calling is, and it is to serve us here at this church.”
“You are a gifted organizer, so God must be calling you to some administrative task.”
“You have children; I bet that makes you a great children’s minister.”
In this case, I see people often engage in ministry in their local church and they seem to be doing fine. But often even this goes awry, because someone else’s assessment of your calling does NOT mean that is what your calling is. And people who are not pursuing their calling burn up and burn out. Then they leave themselves and their churches disappointed.
Idea: I wish churches would quit telling people only what they think they’re good at and spend more time helping people find their calling and answer it, even if it doesn’t benefit their church. Viola! Problem solved.
But I digress…
My point: If God has called you to do something, then do it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t jump in a boat. You’re not too old. You’re not too young. You’re not to fat, too shy, or too messed up. It’s not about how much Bible you know or how healthy you are in the head. It’s about your Creator saying, “Go.”
But so many of us are on the boat. We hear it, but we run. Maybe we think someone else will do it. Maybe we doubt our own capacity to do it. Maybe, like Jonah, we’re just afraid of (or even resentful of) the people God has called us to go to.
But know this: Like Jonah, if we hear a calling and do not answer it, we are in sin. We are disobedient.
This is where the Big Fish comes in. This is where we need our whales.
Maybe it’s a friend who kicks you in the butt and says, “What are you waiting for??”
Maybe it’s losing a job and finding yourself in limbo. And while you’ll be tempted to focus on the scary questions about being practical and earning an income and all that, you will find no better time to answer a calling than at that moment.
Maybe it’s quitting. Breaking your rut. Being less concerned about comfort for you and your family and more concerned with letting God take care of that while you answer the calling you’ve been given.
Maybe it’s opening your Bible up and seeing that God used screwed up, messed up, zealous, tax-collecting, dung-fire cooking, sackcloth-wearing, murderous, adulterous, dancing-in-the-buff people to change the world. You’re in good company with people who were crazy enough to say, “Yes.”
I don’t know what your BIG FISH needs to be.
What I do know is that sometimes it takes that BIG FISH to teach us faith. That if God calls us, he provides. That even our obedience is made possible by grace – even uncomfortable grace – and not our own “goodness.”
So we need whales. BIG FISH.
We could just obey in the first place. After all, who wants to spend several days in the belly of a beast when you could already be doing what God has called you to do?
That really sounds so much more pleasant, doesn’t it?