I don’t love Modesto. Though I have tried to guilt myself into a better attitude, it takes several days of grieving after visiting one of the cities on my list of “preferred places to live”, till I finally surrender to my residential reality. And, this is where Jonah comes in.
I don’t like reading about Jonah. Visions of man-swallowing fish are disturbing, which is largely why I have not taken up paddle boarding. And creepy fish aside, I relate all too well with someone running the other way when God requires difficult obedience. I tried that years ago. It didn’t go well for me either.
However, I must admit that I still have ‘Jonah episodes’… every time vacation is over. Like this week, when I resisted returning home for the umpteenth time. I asked God why I can’t seem to fully accept living in Modesto. I’ve always viewed this city as a temporary lay-over on the way to my real destination – somewhere safer, more beautiful, more cultured, more spiritually significant.
As I read about Jonah’s plan to catch the next ship to some place other than where God called him, bells go off in my head. Jonah wasn’t a rebel, he had valid reasons: Nineveh was an evil city, which today would rank highest on everybody’s ‘places to avoid’ list. Sounds familiar. But what’s wrong with living the dream? Everyone on House Hunters finds their ideal home, in their favorite location.
Then I read the part about “the word of the Lord” telling him to go. Up to this moment in time, I have not seen my life in Modesto as specifically designed for a purpose. It’s been my default. And my wanderlust is not really disobedience; more like window shopping.
Contrary to Jonah’s commitment to a vacation lifestyle, God called him in the opposite direction. His life’s purpose was not to find fulfillment, it was to fulfill the will of God, and God loved the people of Nineveh. That part of the story fit the missing piece to the puzzle of my discontent.
When “living the dream” is my focus, life is all about me. When my focus is obedience, I partner with God and His purposes. And His love for the souls described in Jonah 4:11 showed me His heart for Modesto. He loves the people here.
A beautiful location is not the criterion for God’s blessing or the indicator of His activity. I can choose to believe these years “stuck” in Modesto have not been just my default, a waste of time, or a mistake, but an intentional placement of God. I don’t want to end up like Jonah, angry that He used me to care for a city from which I want to escape. I want to be a willing participant and part of His solution. So I do want to love Modesto, because God loves her.
I also think it will help if I watch less HGTV and focus on… just living the thing.