I like closure. I like nice, clean resolutions. Because of this, I’m not a fan of movies that leave you filling in the blanks and drawing your own conclusions- just tell me how to think darn it! I jest, although thinking for yourself is kind of hard work y’all! I like neat little packaged happy endings, sealed with pretty closure bows (they’re totally a thing, trust me). It’s been over a decade since I watched the movie Lost In Translation and truth be told, I’m still not entirely sure I’m over it. And don’t even get me started on The Perfect Storm!
I guess that’s why the ending to the book of Jonah in the bible is so frustrating to me. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it ends with Jonah sitting under a tree sulking like a fish-gut-stinky, spoiled and petulant child, all because God showed compassion to a group of people who Jonah would rather have seen punished and destroyed.
I look at Jonah’s immature bahviour and yearn for him to have grasped the big picture. I want to read the happy ending, I want to know that he got it! I want his story to have ended in hope.
If I’m painfully honest, no seriously guys, this hurts to admit; I wonder if this yearning stems from the part of me that recognises my own propensity toward immature and stubborn behaviour. I crave the hope of continual, heart attitude and behavioural redemption, because boy, do I need it!
I came home from uni the other week physically exhausted with health issues, and emotionally drained after an intense few hours of class that involved deep, I mean down the rabbit hole-deep, self reflection. I did not like what stared back at me. It made me, irrationally angry…
“I am so sick of navel gazing! I’m so sick of looking inward and discovering that there is still so much crap. When will this end? Like seriously, how much baggage can there be?” I ranted to my husband.
My husband, a man of great wisdom, recognised the rhetorical nature of my question and therefore opted for silent empathy, and a presentation of dark chocolate.
The symptoms of internal crisis can look a lot like PMS- of course he has not had much experience with this as I am the zen master of my own emotions and hormones!
(To those who know me, you can stop the guffaw now. Seriously. Stop it.)
The next day I woke and chose to perpetuate my vile mood. Spending much of the day in bed avoiding the world, much to the world’s relief.
That afternoon my 15 year old son just looked at me and laughed.
“What?” I snapped defensively.
“You. This weird mood. It’s ridiculous. You’re just being silly now. You need to stop.”
Oh the indignation!
But he was right. It was silly, actually it was worse…it was pathetic.
Still, the next day the exhaustion continued, and brought with it a sense of almost self righteous false humility…
“Woe, woe is me. I’m so damaged. Look how broken I am. Look dammit! So broken. And yet, I can acknowledge it. I see my flaws, I own up to them. That’s something, right? I’m pretty much a self-reflective hero; trawling the depths of my damaged psyche, bravely sailing upon tumultuous seas that others dare not cross!
That at least deserves a pat on the back, a round of applause, nay, a standing ovation!
Too far? Perhaps. But for good measure, because one must do things properly if one is to do them at all, I shall again avoid the world today, for I am simply too delicate a wilted flower to face its harsh reality. I shall continue my wallow in self-pity, gently caressing my emotional filth.”
I may have used creative license here, but trust me, it reflects that ugly mood a little too well.
So again, I chose to nap, but before I did so, I washed up, because housework adds that extra seasoning of martyrdom to any pity party dish, and in that moment of distraction, God spoke:
“Be still. Be still and know that I am God.”
“Yes, God, I get it, you are God not me. I know. Now please stop talking to me, I’m busy here. I can’t take anymore of this reflection.”
And off I marched to bed again.
But in the 10 minute window I had allotted for lunch between a nap and collecting the kids, God spoke again…
“Bring low the high and lofty places.”
“God, what does that even mean? This a word for the church right, not about me!?”
When I do prayer ministry (spiritual inner healing) with folk (yes people actually allow me to do that, me who has epic avoidant two day ‘sleep tantrums’), I tell them that God is a perfect gentleman, and as such will tenderly guide them through their healing journey. I think maybe, perhaps, there is room for the slightest of possibilities, that I myself am a tad too stubborn for that gentle approach, and in that 10 minute window God was going to make His point and make sure I got it good…
“Bek, you’re not angry and exhausted because of self reflection. You just don’t like being wrong!”
“I reminded you to be still. Because I know you needed to rest.
I know you needed to sit, to ponder, to meditate on the truth of my sovereignty and take the time to acknowledge that I alone am God. The pressure is off you. You do not have all the answers, you are not perfect. And it’s okay. All I want you to do is bring low the high and lofty places of your thinking; those thoughts that you have allowed to become elevated above what my thoughts and plans are for you.”
And there it was. Yes, self reflection is tiresome tedious work, but trying to be right is more so.
It was time to stop the 48hr sulk-a-thon. It was time to stop recreating scenes from Jonah’s life.
I am learning, and relearning, and learning again, that my penchant for closure, for a bow finished pretty package, is going to take time before it debuts in glorious fashion.
A lifetime actually.
But clearing out the junk is part of the process, and getting it wrong, learning to be in the wrong is part of the process too. And in this, there is hope.