Tantrums; Meet Wairimu and Jonah
If you have been parent to a toddler or spent time around one, then we need not define tantrum for you. Someone has no doubt already illustrated it for you in 3D. They possibly did not get their bottle of milk at just the exact moment when they had to have it or in the blue superman sippy cup that makes the milk that much sweeter. The other possibility is that you took away from them the sharp object they wanted to play with but which you knew would harm them and you tried to replace it with an educational and child-friendly toy that you knew would not only entertain them, but is also safe. But what did you get for all your effort? An epic melt down! Crying like they were being murdered, throwing themselves about with you trying to hold them still lest they cause themselves bodily harm and injure you in the process. If the one who illustrated tantrum for you escaped your grasp they could have been stomping their little feet in anger and frustration, possibly throwing themselves on the ground or even banging their heads against a wall!
But adults do not do tantrums, do they? Well…meet Wairimu and Jonah!
Last week I was in the middle of discussions that i thought were progressing very well about two possible work assignments. Those are assignments that I think I needed very much. They also sounded very interesting with enough challenge to stretch me while building my profile. There was also the not-insignificant detail of an attractive pay package. The family and I were so fired up that we would have debates on which one I should pick and why. I know…yes…counting your chicks before they hatch….yes, I am a classic 3D illustration of that. And then I got the news that they had fallen through. Both of them! You may know how that script goes…we had very strong candidates, there was very positive feedback about you, but in the end we settled for someone whose skills were a closer match to our requirements.
That is when I discovered I still had it in me! I can throw a royal tantrum with the best of them. I clenched my fist and looked up with a snarl on my face and let the man up there have it as I demanded for answers. Why should I bother praying, since it does not seem to change anything? You already have it all planned out, right? Why should we go along with this pretense that it matters anyway? And as I stamped my feet and rolled on the ground, I demanded to know how this trust business is supposed to work. Should we just mouth those words but really just do the best we can? And maybe that best may or may not succeed? A few grownups around me (read; husband and two girl friends) tried to hold me so that I don’t injure myself and they did get a few kicks thrown at them for all their effort. I held on desperately to my God-given right to be angry and to feel sorry for myself.
After his adventures en route Tarshish, through the belly of the big fish and onto Nineveh, Jonah makes a final appearance. In a little account at the end of his story as we know it we have an angry Jonah settling himself under a shade waiting to see what will happen to the city of Nineveh. The Lord provided a vine and made it grow over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered…God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
Eugene Peterson says that anger is most useful as a diagnostic tool. When anger erupts in us it’s a signal that something is wrong. What anger fails to do, though, is tell us whether the wrong is inside or outside us. We usually begin by assuming the wrong is outside us – in my case, the recruiters who raised my hopes and turned their backs on a good thing, friends who did not understand my right to be angry and mostly God for not giving me the good I desired! Eugene Peterson continues to say that when we track the anger carefully, we often find that it leads to a wrong within us – wrong information, inadequate understanding, under developed heart.
And so, when the dust of my anger finally settled and the mercury reading went back to normal position, I by Gods grace was able to look back on the landscape of my journey and see the unexpected and beautiful places God had brought me to and through. I could especially see jobs that I believe without a shadow of doubt were given straight from the hand of a loving father. I felt a growing realisation and appreciation that this is the Lord who changes not. The giver of every good and perfect gift and who does not change like shifting shadows. The one who is the same yesterday today and forever and who therefore would continue to provide as generously as He had in the past.
I also realised that I have to stop living the Jonah Story. I have to give up “my right” to be sorry for myself, to sulk, to be sad, to cry, wail and whine when things to not work out the way I expect. I have to surrender the “right” to complain about how God chooses to order my life and my footsteps. Jonah assumed that he knew exactly what God would do and when God did not do it he was displeased. When he came face to face with the real God he was petulant and sulky because things did not turn out the way he expected.
And so I am giving up that right! Maybe that is the ‘surrender all’ I have been singing all along? To live as though I believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Like Jonah whose imagination had to be expanded to see the largeness of God’s love, mercy and salvation, I have to come back to the truth that both the good things and the bad things serve the purpose of furthering the good in our life. In the words of Timothy Keller, “It is not as important to change our circumstances as it is to change our hearts attitude and stance toward them. It is only if we believe, meditate on and live out Romans 8:28 that we will be able to meet with triumph and disaster, and treat them both the same: viewing them as circumstances that, as we love the God who has called us to know him as Father, he will work in and through for our ultimate good.
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