Life Lessons: Jonah
As a church we have just finished a sermon series called “Life Lessons from Jonah” and it got me to thinking about how we all have a Jonah moment. You know, a moment when God clearly tells us to do something that we intentionally disobey? My biggest Jonah moment occurred when I graduated from college. Let me give you a little background that will help illuminate the situation. My mother is a retired teacher and I spent most of my life watching how exhausting and overwhelming the world of education can be for a person. I knew, I didn’t want to be a teacher. In fact, I went out of my way to not be a teacher. I went to William Carey University and majored in Marketing and Public Relations. I love business and felt that my future prospects in this area would really be an adventure. I saw myself going off and doing something great that would allow me to afford my expensive taste, would have me hobnobbing with the upper class and enjoying all the travel of which I’d always dreamed. I could just see myself in my BMW, wearing my Manolo Blahniks heading off to a lovely gala. So, graduating during a recession and not being able to find a job was definitely NOT on my to-do list!
It was a this point that the Lord started suggesting to me that I was meant for teaching and naturally I ignored Him. I didn’t want to teach! Teaching wouldn’t give me the lifestyle I dreamed of and if I was honest, I felt it was somewhat beneath me. After all, I was an AP/Honor student who thought I had worked too hard to do something as “simplistic” as teaching. (Boy, was I an idiot!) Like Jonah, I was running away from God’s direction just as fast as I could and just like in Jonah’s story the Lord was willing to do what it took to get my attention. How did He get my attention? He got me to a place where I had no choice but to listen to Him…all that was missing was the giant fish!
First, I applied for every business job I could find within a two hour driving range. All I heard back from anyone was that I was overqualified and thus not hire-able. I then began applying for every job I was possibly qualified for outside of business, as long as it wasn’t in education and I received the same response. As my bills began to grow, I realized I had to find something to make ends meet so I decided to substitute teach because it allowed me to continue to go on interviews. Truthfully, I was embarrassed that I had to stoop to this option because to me education was still not a possibility. Little did I realize that the Lord was using this time to help me gain the skills to best work with students. I was several months into subbing when I was talking with a school employee about my future and how difficult the economy had made the job search when she asked me if I had ever considered teaching. Her comment to me was that I did so well with the students that she could really see me excelling in education. For some reason, it seemed to finally click in my mind that maybe I was meant for education but I wasn’t done negotiating with God.
I agreed to go with the Lord’s plan but with the understanding that I would only teach elementary school. I, personally, loved elementary school but found middle school and high school intimidating as a student and didn’t want to return as a teacher. So, if the Lord wanted me to teach, it would be on my terms. I went out and started working on my alternate route certification for teaching and tested to teach elementary school. I scored so high that they gave me a certificate of excellence. As far as I was concerned, that was proof that I was right. I got the chance to test this theory when I took a long term subbing job with second graders. I just knew this was where I was meant to be even though in the back of my mind I still had high school whirling around. Two weeks in and I drove home one Friday evening and signed up to test for a high school subject! I had all I could take of those lovely little children. I knew if I had to deal with them for more than a few days I would end up in the looney bin!
If I am honest, like Jonah, I became angry with God. Why have me go through the trouble of getting a business degree if that is not what I was meant to do with my life? His plan and path didn’t make any sense to me but looking back I realize that every single step of that path made perfect sense for where I was heading. I just couldn’t see beyond the few steps in front of me.
I eventually received multiple high school certifications and then had the opportunity to become a secretary for one of the principals at the local high school while I did my alternate route program which was brilliant because it allowed me to learn the ins and outs of the school while getting to know the kids. The next year I interviewed for their Marketing position. A position that I was considered “highly qualified” for because of my degree. He knew every single step. Every. Single. Step.
I remember the first time I thought “Okay, this is where I belong.” I had a kid in remediation that was a lost cause to most. He was a pain to deal with. Came to my class hungover and put less effort into his work than I did. But when he hugged me at graduation and thanked me for believing in him (and kicking his butt into cooperating) I knew that I was fulfilling my purpose. For a long time I questioned what the Lord was doing in my life because it didn’t look like I thought it should and it seemed like every time I would question the Lord I would see Esther 4:14. “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” It was like the Lord was trying to assure me that this was my place and my purpose.
Now, here I am over a decade later, teaching a subject I love to kiddos I love and going to sleep every night knowing that I walk into my mission field every day. I have no doubt that this is where I am supposed to be though at times I still have the tendency to question God’s wisdom. But let me tell you…if I’ve learned anything during this pandemic and upheaval of education, it’s that everything the Lord put in my life, even the whales, were preparing me for my purpose.
I’m glad the Father did not give up on Jonah and I’m glad He doesn’t give up on me. I can be awfully stubborn but as always He was right. Not just with my purpose but with the road that led there. Like I said, looking back every step of the journey was well thought out and benefited me in my mission. If you had told me fifteen years ago that I would be stressed out over what was happening with 1800 of the local teenagers I would have laughed at you. If you had told me I would be working at my alma mater, I would’ve cussed you out.
They say the Lord works in mysterious ways and that may be true but His ways are never random or inconsequential. If I’ve learned anything in my decade of teaching, it’s to be open to the Father’s purpose for your life and to trust that He has equipped you for what He has prepared for you even if you weren’t prepared for it yourself. Just as Jonah recognized in chapter four (vs. 2), the Lord is a “gracious and compassionate God” and thankfully this will never change. This was true when Jonah ran away and it is still true when we do the same. Listen to the Father. He has an amazing plan for your life if you are just willing to participate!