There are two characters within the Bible that have been standing out to me at present; Jonah and Balaam. Both were prophets who were very much aware of what God was instructing them to do. Yet, both chose to fully ignore what God had told them to do. In fact, while reading both of their accounts, one may find themselves asking if someone could really be that dense…that hard of hearing to God’s specific instructions. Well, I am not proud to admit it, but I too am one of the hard heads who God has had to show grace towards—time and time again—to reveal His greater grace within my story. Perhaps you too can relate to these accounts of God’s grace. Let’s jump into each of their accounts and then share the parallels I have witnessed within my own story.
Jonah, was a prophet of God who had been directed by God to go to the wicked town of Nineveh and tell the people to stop doing horrible things and repent to God. Yet, believing that those of Nineveh would be shown grace from God, Jonah chose to completely disregard what God had instructed him to do—and actually hopped on a ship headed for the exact opposite direction (Tarshish) in hopes of escaping God’s call (Jonah 1:1-3). Jonah thought that he knew the best way that things should play out in the lives of others. Ever been there? I know I have!
Now, take the false prophet of Balaam. He was made famous by his talking donkey. Unfortunately, my life reflects much of his story over the past eighteen months of living in the Middle East. God had very plainly told me to stay home with my kids, but I was just convinced that He must have not had all the needed information to make the decision that I definitely saw as best—working outside of the home with our kids in nursery school. So, as I was approached by a Christian church to be their Sunday school coordinator, I was won over by their flattery. I continued to insist that I was going to be a homeschooling, stay-at-home mama during our time here. They said that was great, but continued to flatter me with what a great job I do with the children each week. They invited me to interview. Once they stated that I could do it from home, when the kids were napping, I agreed to apply. I prayed about it and felt a peace. I indeed interviewed and got the position.
What was initially ten hours a week quickly turned into thirty, as I am a workaholic. In order to maintain the days for my children, I worked from our home office at night—I was going to do this—this was an amazing opportunity! Yet, this was not what God had told me to do. And as a result, it was affecting my husband and I. I was always too busy for him. I brushed it off and continued to tell myself that he would be fine. Well, five weeks in, I resigned from the position. I was not a fit.
Now that I was home again, with no added income to speak of, a stress and undeniable pressure in my chest began to overwhelm me each day. Here in the Middle East, it is most common to hire a live-in nanny to tend to your children. Thus, it was not easy to plan play dates around our neighborhood—nor even plan weekly events. We had purchased a homeschool curriculum to use during our time here. I thought we would give that a go. But, with a newly walking toddler and a spunky two and a half year old, it became clear—quickly—that this was not going to work either. So, my husband and I agreed that our daughter would enjoy being in a structured nursery class with the majority of the other expatriate children within this country—at $1,000 USD a month. Sound far-fetched for a nursery school? Well, this reflected most all of the prices within the country. Thus, as most things are not well advertised here, it is easy to begin to feel trapped or even alone within the walls of your home. So, we bit the bullet and agreed for our daughter to join nursery.
Simply put, she thrived. So much so in fact, that her teacher pulled me aside on one of the first days and stated that our daughter already knew all of the material and was bored. Yet, I told the teacher that I had no other option seeing as she was too young to join the official school system until four years of age. Yet, I had disregarded what the Lord had told me months previously—stay home and homeschool. In doing so, we would have saved money every month and I would have been honoring God. But, I chose to rebel in my spirit for the sake of fitting in with those around me—sound a bit like Balaam seeking the praise and approval of others? Perhaps you too have had Balaam moments when you look back on your own story. I know I do.
In much the same way, Balaam also rebelled in his spirit towards what the Lord had told him to do. Not only did he disregard that God said not to go with the men of King Balak of the Moabites to curse the Israelites, but he also beat his donkey three times as it refused to continue on the journey. Now, why in the world would a donkey refuse to walk along a trail, you may be asking yourself. The donkey was able to see the Angel of the Lord standing in front of it at three separate instances. And the very thing that made the prophet Balaam burn with anger, turned out to be a blessing from God that spared his very life. As the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth to speak, it asked Balaam why he had beaten it three times. Balaam then answers the donkey and stated that he would have killed it if he had had a sword for not obeying him. Yet, as he finishes saying these piercing words, Balaam’s eyes are also opened to see the Angel of the Lord—standing before him with a drawn sword. Balaam falls flat on his face before the angel. He stated that if it was not for the donkey turning away three times, he would have killed Balaam and spared the donkey. Oh what a twist of perspective!
Within my own story, the amount of housework was also daunting to me. We were here in the Middle East with the U.S. Embassy and the home reflected it; large and spacious living areas, multiple bedrooms, multiple bathrooms and both a front and backyard (not a given here in the Middle East). The need to “keep up” is crushing in a culture filled with drivers, nannies, maids and the like. I began to feel that there must be something wrong with me to be cleaning my own home—and watching my own children. Thus, as the literal “dust storms” would blow through our part of town, a fine dust, much like all-purpose flour would blow under the door and in through the bathroom fans to coat the entire two-story home with grey dust. It did not matter how often you cleaned, your home was always to look dirty of one was not willing to hire live-in help.
So, we tried that route for a while. Our maid from Sri Lanka quickly became a sincere friend. She worked for us for six months before stating that she would be looking for full-time work in a few months. She wanted to be our live-in help—and we were entertaining the offer. All the while, I had begun to be courted by the U.S. Embassy to be their Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for the upcoming year. It seemed perfect!
I had quickly learned that I was not cut out for the solitary, repetitive and daunting tasks that came with being a stay at home mother and homeschool teacher. So, surely, I concluded once more, God must have meant something different for me and my children. Surely adventure and daily excursions were in our bundle of daily blessings, right? Who wants to do the “boring” or “hard” stuff anyway? I know I sure struggle with that one. Yet, once I was five weeks into the hustle and bustle of the prestigious U.S. Embassy position within the wealthy country of Qatar, I realized that my heart really wanted to be home—not speaking with high ranking political officials. I wanted to be home with my children. God provided a way out for me—once I was willing to tell God that He was right and that I was only wasting precious time that He had given me with my children—as a gift. The very thing I was running from became the very place I now knew I needed to return to.
In the same way, Jonah….After stating that the ship’s crew should throw him into the violently raging sea, a giant fish swallowed Jonah where he stayed for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Once he repented and praised God for saving his life through the intervention of the large fish, God ordered Jonah to be spit onto the shore (Jonah 2:10). Now, God asked Jonah a second time to head to Nineveh and tell the people to turn from their evil ways and instead follow God. He did (Jonah 3:1-3). And as a result, the people of Nineveh were shown grace and forgiveness from God (Jonah 3:10).
As our time here in the heart of the Middle East comes to a close, a new chapter will yet again unfold before our family. As Christians, I encourage each of you to listen up to what the Lord is telling you. Make sure that it matches up with scripture and hold fast to the words spoken. For me, I am thankful that I have learned the valuable lessons of waiting on the Lord now—rather than many years from now—so that I can now impart them to our children. The days of a follower of Jesus Christ will not always be filled with thrilling adventures that span the globe or result in a racing heart. But, each day will be filled with the needed ingredients to bring us one day closer to becoming the women God has called each of us to be. And to be honest with you ladies, that is the greatest adventure of all.
In all of travels in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, I can assure you that God will speak to you – no matter what your circumstances nor global coordinates of the heart! Why? Because, just like these men recorded in the Bible, the God of the Bible, is a God of second chances (Romans 5:6 & Romans 5:8). My life is testimony to this very thing!
May you allow your soul to meet the amazing and awe inspiring Creator of the universe, by opening up the lines of communication in your heart today. You don’t have to speak a certain language nor hold a certain level of qualification to approach the throne of grace of Jesus Christ. Come to Him today, just as you are, and allow Him to speak truth to your heart that will prove purpose and edify meaning within each interaction within each of your days. You are alive and drawing sweet breath for a reason this very day; don’t allow another second to pass without thanking the One who created you and is preparing you for greatness. May you be encouraged to the Lord Jesus Christ your yesterdays, today and future; greatness awaits!
Christ is the answer.