Sometimes suddenly, our patterns become our prisons. No longer infusing us with faith and trust in God, they lock us in and restrict us from all that God is offering and requiring.
Jonah and I are entrenched in and limited by patterns. Thankfully, God is bigger than our minuscule paradigms.
Patterns create obstacles to obedience for Jonah and me. Nineveh is proof positive that God prioritizes persons above patterns.
Jonah’s pattern was established in history, religion, economics, racial prejudice, geography, and personal bias. When God commanded Jonah to become effective in Nineveh the basis for Jonah’s patterns were completely tested beyond his comprehension. His pattern hopes became his obedience hurdles.
The son of Amittai truly hoped that God wouldn’t love and care for Nineveh and it’s people.
- “Lord, do you know how in the past they have……
- Jehovah is the exclusive property of the Jews. You would never send me to the…….
- Those Ninevites have unfairly dominated our economy and …….
- We Jews are God’s people. We are a cut above those inferior………..
- What? It is a very long and expensive journey to get to……..”
I am Jonah. Personal biases, geography, race issues, economics, religion, and history are obedience hurdles for me too. Imprisoned by biases and blind spots, I can’t see the value in what God is demanding and in fact, I sometimes feel He is so wrong that I too seek to run as far and fast as I can in the opposite direction.
Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) captures part of my Jonah like-ness with powerful clarity.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
“Lord, have mercy upon me. I am imprisoned by my patterns and obedience to you is difficult. You are calling me to the cities of your world that are filled with people you deeply love. Shatter my biases of history, religion, race, economics, and geography. May my voice speak for you rather than simply be an echo of my patterns.”