Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land. The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. – Jonah 2:10-3:3a
I like Jonah. I like him a lot! His story – and his attitude – are so relatable. Like many of God’s chosen ones before him, Jonah heard God’s call to him loud and clear. He understood what God was asking him to do and like many before him, he responded with hesitancy. Unlike people like Moses and Isaiah, though, Jonah’s hesitancy didn’t come from a place a self-doubt. He didn’t express fear or unworthiness, nor did he question his own abilities to do what God was asking of him. No – Jonah just wasn’t interested. He didn’t like the Assyrians and so he just didn’t want to do it! Instead, he jumped on a boat going the opposite direction.
I don’t think Jonah is alone in choosing to ignore God’s call to him. Have you ever felt God tugging on your heart and decided to ignore it? Maybe it was about something small – a tug to apologize to a loved one so that a relationship could be reconciled… or a tug to stop spreading gossip. Or maybe it was in something big – for me, it was a tug to become a pastor that I turned my back on for several years. I imagine that most of us have chosen to ignore God’s call at some point in our lives.
The story of Jonah teaches us a very dramatic lesson about the persistence of God. God doesn’t give up, but rather keeps calling us. For Jonah, that meant a big storm and then a big fish swallowing him. These forces of nature pushed the pause button on Jonah’s life and gave him another chance to get it right.
This story gives me great comfort because I believe that God is just as persistent with us. If I miss or ignore God’s call the first time, God will still be there, tugging on my heart, giving me chance after chance to redirect my path and realign myself with God’s call. The same is true for you. Love doesn’t give up on us, but keeps calling. Love keeps providing us with opportunities to get back on track. What a relief that God’s mission doesn’t depend on us getting it right the first time!