Interruptions and the Life of Jonah – what a week of VBS and other instances in life taught me.

Sometimes the message we need to hear is the one constantly echoing around us. Sometimes, all those seemingly random dots line up and connect when you least expect it. Sometimes, old truths get brought to light in a new and exciting way, helping them really sink in.

I’m a planner. I have loved checklists and organizing since as long as I can remember. Every day I wake up with expectations for each part of my day, a system and flow that I want to follow, from big things such as events or classes, to my downtime and what shows I’ll watch on Netflix. While in and of itself this can be a good thing, its easy to get attached to my ideals, to love the rhythm of setting my own pace, to get comfortable in the familiar and uncomplicated. Life rarely operates in these ways. Adversity is built in to every story line. It’s what makes the everyday journey of life so compelling. It’s what causes us to grow and transform by the end. And for someone who loves to construct their own patterns, interruptions can sure be the greatest enemy.

I have struggled with handling interruptions well for years now. It’s often been my biggest source of frustration, anger, bitterness, and discontent. They bring out the worst in me. They wake me up to how self-absorbed my days can really be.

I guess then I shouldn’t have been surprised when this all too familiar topic started rising up in my life. First, it was VBS. This year, it was all about the story of Jonah. Most of us at this point get a visual association of the flannel graph and goldfish crackers, or the Veggie Tales movie filled with broadway style songs {both of which I’ve enjoyed on occasion ;)}. It’s a story of running, disobedience, and consequences. It’s all about repentance, surrender, and God’s mercy. Behind all these main themes is hiding something I really haven’t considered a whole lot. The book of Jonah is about interruptions, how we handle them, and the sovereignty of God. It is a picture of living against the story God is writing because of the inconvenience and discomfort that comes your way. It is a portrait of mercy that reaches to the depths of the sea, the beauty of surrendering our hearts to what turns out to be a much better plan, and of love that we cannot hide from.

At VBS, I switched positions a lot, and got the opportunity to work with many precious little ones, while learning how to be flexible. It was all about learning how to love those around me and love God the best way I could, wherever I was put at a particular time. It was a week of learning how to be open to whatever God wanted me to do, especially in the small, ordinary moments.

There was nothing more precious than hearing the bits of the Bible lessons and memory verses through the week that corresponded to these truths. And catchy songs about how “let the day turn to night or let the sun shine bright, when I can’t see the light You’re still holding me tight, there’s nowhere I could hide from Your love” and “let me follow all Your ways, let me seek You for my direction, let me Your word and my obedience never be apart, Lord we all need a resurrection.” Both full of the faithfulness of God and reminder of the importance of following after Him above our own desires. I was struck by the depth of a grace that loves us patiently even when we disregard the path God sets for us, when we don’t love Him and others as we should, when we react harshly to interruptions.

Next, after the week long VBS, the following morning I was at an event where the devotional presented was on this topic of interruptions. Several key points jumped out at me. Interruptions are where ministry happens. They are where God is doing His work in our hearts. Interruptions are where life exists and love is most fully expressed. Interruptions almost always involve other people. They are a chance to live love in an unexpected way.

Behind interruptions is trust. Am I trusting God that He is writing my story in the best way possible? Am I living this out even- no especially in the everyday moments? Or am I holding to my agenda as the best road to all my hopes and dreams? If so, is it really a surprise when I so quickly wreck and fall apart? One thing I can say for sure, even though it’s so hard to be constantly surrendered (and it is a continual process, required every moment, not just something you can do once and be good at), God writes our stories in such beautiful ways that go far beyond our limited perspective. His faithfulness is hidden in the details, and so getting upset over not completing all the things we think will improve us and make our lives complete is a waste. Truth is, those moments hold the ability to fulfill as more, as they pull us closer to Jesus, where our souls fit best. So be brave and trust. Trust that what He does with your hours. Trust the interruptions, the way He does it to make the every day that much better, for our souls to grow.

Interruptions come in many forms. Plans with friends falling through. Unexpected events for friends arising. Going to do something with others instead of sitting in having a quiet night alone. Not making everything on your to do list because of other tasks and responsibilities arising that may not seem as important, but actually are much more.

Soul work, loving others, these are always greater than what takes up the minutes of our routine. ALWAYS. (Repeat this to yourself each time you get up. Each time some unexpected arises and frustrates you. Again and again.) Interruptions are instances where we see the purposes of God for us.

Lastly, this message came full circle when I happened to pick back up a book I was reading : Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer. And suddenly I realized how much parts of Jonah’s story related to me. It never ceases to amaze me the way God brings the events and truth we most need to hear together into our lives.

It further touched on the theme of letting God have His way in our lives. One part said “… sometimes God’s gifts are disguised beneath new responsibilities.”  Oh man, have I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. As someone who loves to run their schedule and chart their course, it was hard to see new responsibilities as a gift.

God’s plans may seem uncomfortable, not be something we like, and unimportant at times. However, the truth is they are the best things we could ever hope to be doing at that moment. It’s about getting the privilege of working with Him as He brings light to the dark, life from death, hope from the gray.

“What if we KNEW this interrupted life was less about the problem and more about the process? What if we KNEW that the direction He was taking us provided opportunities we’d always dreamed about, even if they didn’t exactly look the way we thought they would?” These are such important questions to let sink in to your life and affect the way you live.

All in all, I think the lesson so far on interruptions and Jonah – and believe me, I still have a lot of learning and growing and processing to do in this area – is best summed up in this statement (this quote and all above are from Priscilla Shirer’s book, which I highly recommend) : “I want my life to radiate what happens when God has a person’s heart at His full control, when every event or circumstance is simply another avenue to know Him better and show forth His glory. That’s what the book of Jonah is really about. It’s not just about the big fish- not just Jonah and “the whale.” The main character in Jonah’s story is God. Every single chapter – in fact, every single verse – speaks of the sovereignty of God, the beckoning of God, the discipline of God. He’s ALWAYS there. He is right in the middle of every interruption. This interruption – whatever it is, no matter how big or small – represents your next chance to see Him take center stage, to show you what He can do when the unexpected only makes you more expectant than ever.”

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