I am what my family affectionately calls an “administrative nerd.” Organization is my passion…few things bring me as much satisfaction as seeing all things flowing in the same direction, buttery-smooth as sun-kissed streamwater.
But…sometimes, there’s a dam.
Dams in the waterways of life are inevitable…but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. Never have I liked it less than when it interferes with not just my peace, but the peace of those around me. Compounding compassion with organizational perfectionism can lead to one unpleasant morning; as was the case recently, when a hitch in a well-laid (and months old, might I add) plan left not only me, but friends and family as well, scrambling for a last-minute solution.
In the midst of the chaos—during that dreaded period where you’ve done all you can, and all that’s left is to wait—I was silently fuming at my desk. This whole situation was so unfair, I found myself thinking. We’d had this plan in place for months, months, and now, a week before everything was set to kick off…now there’s a change of plan? Why us, God, why us? I just want to shrink and disappear, I don’t want to go through this, ARGH!
And then, one of those quiet thoughts: Don’t be a Jonah.
Of all the biblical figures, perhaps none stand so obstinately contrary to the sacrificial, “not my will but yours be done” attitude of Jesus, than our friend Jonah. I can’t say I have any idea what Jonah’s life was like before God sent him to Nineveh, but I’m willing to bet his administrative idea did not involve hopping onto a camel’s back and riding into the jaws of the enemy (Nineveh being, by gentle terms, a nasty place, with a prophetic future of enslaving Jonah’s people). So Jonah scampered off to port, hopped on a boat, tried to sail to Tarshish—in the opposite direction, by the way—and…well, most of us know the rest.
Fast forward! Jonah is rescued from the belly of the sea creature, makes his way to Nineveh, does as God tells him…and the people turn! God spares them. And Jonah’s reaction to this change in plan?
COMPLAIN. This was why he fled, he knew God was just going to spare them anyway, what was the point of this, now these people are just going to enslave Israel, it would be better if he just died, grumble, grumble…
Jonah leaves the city and sits to wait and see what God will do. God sends a plant to shelter him from the scorching sun; then God sends a worm to eat the plant. Jonah complains. He’s going to faint, it would be better if he just died, grumble, grumble…
Man oh man, I do not want to be like Jonah! Changes in plan—especially with an outcome that can cause inconvenience or harm to those I care about—are always a pain to at least some degree. But if my kneejerk reaction is to grumble, complain, and bemoan my very existence as plans change—rather than to trust that God is in my corner, no matter what—that’s a fairly good barometer that my heart is in the wrong place. I’m not looking at the bigger picture; I’m not looking for solutions, or for ways to learn and grow from this. I’m stewing under that scorching east wind, waiting to faint. And I don’t want to be like that anymore!
Inconvenience is a part of life. Plans will change—and for us administrative, organized types, it will rock the boat so much we may wish we could just shrivel up and disappear. But the next time something happens to interrupt my carefully-laid plans…rather than being like Jonah, I’ll try being like Jesus. Jesus, who changed his course at a whisper from God, and stayed sensitive to the doubts, the fears, and the needs of those around him:
Around three in the morning, [Jesus] came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.
Heavenly Father, when plans change, help me to keep my peace! Help me to look for the lesson. And help me to always find a way to do Your will—even when there’s a change of plan.