My word to live by this year is a mix of uncomfortable and fear. Neither of those are words that most people like. That is precisely why I chose them. (Fun fact: the word “uncomfy” actually makes me cringe a little bit).
When life gets uncomfy
I just spent the month of January studying abroad in the wonderful city of Merida, Yucatan. And I was uncomfortable about 90% of the time I was there. Please don’t mistake this declaration as a complaint because there is a huge place in my heart for the Mexican culture and its people – I miss it everyday. But my day to day life was different in every possible way. I couldn’t drink water from the faucet, I had trouble at times communicating all my thoughts in Spanish, and my long legs didn’t fit on the bus. Every day was a new adventure full of new situations and new interactions.
One of my good friends and I decided on December 27th that we were going to change the meaning of New Year’s resolutions for ourselves. We decided to do one thing every day that scares us. We realized that we were letting fear control our life choices – fear of what others think, fear of failure, fear of rejection. When I was in Mexico, I thought that just being in another country would count as my “one thing.” But every day, God placed something in my path for me to be able to make a decision: do I take a chance at failing and do this thing in front of me, or do I ignore it and go on with my life? This is much like Jonah’s situation.
I remember as a kid learning about the story of Jonah. In children’s ministry the takeaway from this lesson is often how God kept Jonah safe in the fish’s mouth for three days. Which is a great thing to remember – God is with us in all circumstances (another amazing lesson I learned in Mexico). But I think a big point we often gloss over is why a fish ate Jonah in the first place. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord (Jonah 1:1-3).”
The situation that God required of Jonah made him so afraid that he ran away from what God called him to do. (My guess is that the fish’s mouth wasn’t a whole lot more comfortable than what God asked Jonah to do in the first place). There is an important lesson to be learned from Jonah’s experience.
When the story is bigger than you
I don’t want to suffer the same consequences as Jonah. I want to trust that God’s plan is better than what I know. This year, I want to be able to hear God’s voice and go, no matter how big or small the calling. The things I am doing every day that I am afraid of are not necessarily always promptings from God. But they are preparing me to be able to obey the voice of God in every situation. God didn’t tell me that I get to live a comfortable life.
The Bible is full of God calling people into uncomfy situations – Esther pleaded with the King to save the Jews, Moses negotiated with Pharaoh in leading his people out of Egypt, even Mary the mother of Jesus became pregnant as a virgin before she married Joseph. God prepares His people to do His work. Not only will I grow in situations that make me uncomfortable, God will use me in ways I never thought possible.
So this year, I am going to make friends with people who are different than me. I am going to speak up in class even when I lack confidence. I am going to do things for other people that might not make me look “cool.” And I am going to do things that I am scared people might judge me for. I am going to do these things in order to prepare myself for the days when I feel that nudge in my heart from God. The nudge that asks me to do something that might make me uncomfortable, knowing that I am helping write a story bigger than my own. This is easier said than done, but it’s also easier knowing that God walks ahead of me.
“I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life you will fill me with joy in your presence (Acts 2:25-28).”