Learning How to be Disappointed

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I know that one fate befalls them both. So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 2:14, 17

No one expected me to grow up and get tattoos. Home-schooled, raised in a conservative home, influenced by a father who interacted regularly with inked criminals and a granny who taught me to be an old soul — tattoos didn’t seem to be in the cards for Hannah Hunter.

Well. I have a few.

While I didn’t get the tattoos to make a statement or to be conflicting, I confess I amuse myself with people’s reactions to a Christian with tattoos. I particularly enjoy watching the confusion on fellow churchgoer’s faces as they introduce themselves to me and then catch a glimpse of a wolf’s bloody face peeking on my shoulder blade from under my sleeveless dress. How can this person, who seems so much like a person who wouldn’t have tattoos, sport four tattoos in rather obvious places.

I think most of the confusion comes from the gradual realization that my tattoos clearly aren’t carried over from a life before Christ. Two of them might be images, but the other two speak volumes into reminders of lessons taught to me during disappointing valleys.

My tattoos are scars from my first real “Valley of the Shadow of Death” as a true believer. Each permanent mark reflects a moment in my staggering, barely progressive walk. The Greek chara, meaning “joy”; a C.S. Lewis quote, “He loves us not because we are lovable, but because He is love”; a simple, dainty marigold, based on lyrics from Relient K concerning the common weed, “Oh, I’m a marigold, but You picked me”; and a weeping wolf with bloodied fangs, another depiction of the Relient K song, Deathbed: “You cried ‘wolf’, the tears, they soaked your fur, the blood dripped from your fangs, you said, ‘What have I done?'”

I was reeling in my own Ecclesiastical revelation of my life and grasping at the gospel that had saved me once. My tattoos tell a story of my disappointment, a believer’s desperate cry for contentment and joy, a Christian’s constant self-preaching of God’s truths.

A Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is a Puritan gem. I highly recommend it. But once you drink from that rich, convicting paperback, I suggest chasing it down with John Hindley’s Dealing with Disappointment.

How interesting that Solomon, the wise king, gifted and preserved by God, became so frustrated by earthly life that he wailed an exasperated, “Vanity of vanities!” or, “Utterly meaningless!”

Even more interesting, Hindley points out, that God, who ordained and inspired all the words written as Scriptures, makes absolutely sure that we read about life’s utter meaninglessness in His word.

Jesus Himself expressed disappointment and frustration, even toward things He, as God, could reverse or control. His friend, Lazarus, dies, and He weeps. He prays earnestly in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and literally sweats blood. He chides His disciples, particularly Peter and Thomas, for their doubt in His deity, His grace, and His power.

To grieve over disappointments is normal. We were created, after all, in God’s image. Wouldn’t we, although sinful, be in tune to the way the world should be and maddeningly aware of its shortcomings? Perhaps, especially as American Christians, we have a tendency to be “under-disappointed”. We strive towards and achieve certain goals of human success — the job, the house, the spouse, the kids, the car, the accolades — always reaching for the next thing, trying not to realize those accomplishments still disappoint somehow. We don’t want to face our disappointments head-on, so we chin-up, like good Americans on the fast track to self-improvement, fully aware of but actively ignoring the sinking feeling that all of life is rot anyway.

What a strange concept. That God Himself instilled in us a natural and good inclination toward disappointment and frustration with life.

I don’t think I was ever in any real danger of under-disappointment. I wrestled with how to mourn over things I wanted and could not have, and whether it was Christ-like for me to do so, but I eventually figured it out.

What I’m facing now is the repercussions of indulging in “over-disappointment”, per Hindley.

We have made something that we are right to regret the lack of into a god without which we cannot enjoy life.

John Hindley

I had hunkered down in the trenches of this battle called life, grieving and depressed about the lack of purpose and lack of spiritual leadership. And while that season of acknowledging the disappointment was Christ-like, I had fermented in my bitterness for too long.

My lack of children became an excuse to be “triggered” about churches ignoring childless couples.

My lack of a mentor and caring church body fostered distrust, an excuse to avoid vulnerable relationships with other Christians.

My lack of anything resembling the life I thought I would have when I was 28 rendered me angry, bitter, and reclusive.

I was stuck in an idolatrous rut I had dug myself. I forgot how to climb out of the battle trenches and press forward. I spent too long looking at my tattoos through hot, angry tears instead of using them to prompt thankfulness in remembrance of God’s preservation.

The thing is, we will never escape disappointment while we trot this globe. Like Solomon, we must acknowledge the vanity of life, the meaningless existence of humans. God told His creations after the fall that man’s life would be toil, that woman’s life would be pain, and that all would die. Sin wrought disappointment, and Christians should grieve their disappointments.

But disappointments are not the end.

We have a great husband, lover, friend, Lord, King, and God in Jesus Christ. If our eyes are fixed on Him, the disappointments we feel are kept in perspective. They are real. They may be keenly felt. But they are not the last word. They do not dictate our emotions.

John Hindley

The past few weeks, God planned the right series of sermons, Facebook quotes, and books to cross my path. I am convicted. I am aware of my disappointments. I carry my permanent “scars” out of the trenches with me. But I do not want to be dragged back in, returning to wallow and lick my wounds. Jesus, cut the chains of disappointment that have choked my soul for too long.

Pray for me: I am clawing my way out and pressing forward.

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A Punching Bag’s Last Request

Written and rewritten after each wave of conviction. This is not the original draft.

Anyone who followed my writing for the past two years would understand my camaraderie with a reliable, worn out punching bag.

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Our marriage, our emotions, our spiritual walks took hit after hit after hit. And, like most good Christians, we put our heads down and held our ground for each volley, hiding (sometimes) trustingly behind our shields of faith. Because that’s what Christians do. They endure. They stand firm. They keep taking hits.

And that’s halfway true.

I have allowed myself to survive in that half-truth ever since we set foot outside of my comfort zone, my hometown, safe and reliable Pittsburgh. My fingers were pried off of so much I held dear… and isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Survive this life until we’re whisked away to heaven?

Partially. Lately, the Spirit has been convicting me of the other half of Christian suffering: perseverance. I can almost hear Him, rumbling and stern on my soul… Enough.

I’ve been stuck as my own punching bag, bracing myself for every punch God sends my way. Youngstown? Punch. No biological kids? Punch. No church plant? Punch. No church family? Punch.

And I just kept bouncing back, expecting the next hit and never really moving forward. I wallowed, almost relished, in the seemingly constant beatings. Suffering became an idol to me. Did it make me feel more spiritual? More mature in my walk? Less naive?

Christians are to expect suffering, for sure, but we’re not simply called for spiritual beatings. We’re supposed to defend ourselves with our shield of faith, then plunge forward, girded with truth and wielding our sword of the Spirit, confident in our breastplate of righteousness and running ever onward in our shoes that bring the gospel of peace.

I’ve been a mediocre Christian. I’ve cowered behind my shield for two years, living as the barely believing punching bag. And I gave room in my soul for the devil to reap doubt of God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s faithfulness. Why else could the past two years have happened? Why else would God ruin Christian fellowship for me forever? Why else would I still sting a little while joyously congratulating pregnant friends? God can’t be good. God can’t be gracious. God can’t be faithful. Look how He hurt me. Look how He persecutes me. Me. Me. Me.

Enough, says the Spirit.

So here is my request.

Close that chapter for me, Lord. Never let it leak into my joy in You. Thank you for my permanent reminders of your presence with me during that time, but don’t let them rekindle doubt. Remind me of how You’ve changed me. Use my scars for your glory. Put my hell to good use. Give me strength and courage to keep running. Make me give you credit for that strength and courage. Don’t let me stand still.

The key issue is what goes before and after the ‘but’ in your life. You can say, for example, ‘I am a follower of Christ, but I cannot have children and so life will be dominated by disappointment’, or you can run it the other way around: ‘I cannot have children, but I am loved by God and there is joy in him’. The question is where the weight lies. Either way there is disappointment; but we can define our life by disappointment or we can define our life by Jesus. The first is an indication of idolatry; the second is a sign of real, hope-filled faith.

John Hindley

 

Red, Part 3

A continuation of my Red and Red 2 posts.

This has been the longest year of my life.

About one year ago, I arrived just beyond the border of my home state, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was a Steelers fan in Browns country, a college graduate in a community of high school drop-outs, a Caucasian in a majority of African-Americans.

We dove right in, willing to serve uncomfortably, ready to obey without hesitation. Mister and I had prayed for this moment, for this mission, for this lifestyle we believed had been fashioned by God Himself.

My nerves and emotions hummed deafeningly with anticipation. Babies, college student tenants in a big new old house, church plants, working odd jobs to help with money — with unwavering confidence, we strapped on our parachutes and jumped.

You all know what happened next.

No babies.

No job.

No church plant, no church family, no church.

We had lived within Ohio state borders for barely 6 months.

I often longingly remembered the seemingly carefree days of renting in Pennsylvania. There was still hope for a family, still a sense of knowing the spiritual roles God was calling us to within His Church.

I also often longingly thought of death. December and January brought dark, shrinking days. I was holed up, alone in my now temporary home, with no church family, no job to fit my talents or my passion, no hope of ever having my own children.

God seemed to be exactly nowhere. He abandoned me, my soul would wail. My mind would recall Psalms of hope and encouragement to no avail. I literally hated myself. I felt worthless. If God couldn’t use me, then why am I even here?

Many days would include a long, hard stare at the household weapon. Thank God, I don’t think I ever would’ve used it, but I somehow wished I could obtain what that gun represented. Death appealed to me. If I died, I could simply slip into God’s rest. If I continued to exist on this earth, I would continue to be tortured with no purpose.

I became the person I used to misunderstand: the depressed Christian.

But God did not leave me in the valley for long.

I got a job. Not just any job, but a technical writing job doing the one thing I love: writing and designing technical manuals.

My dog had puppies. Not just puppies, but nine wriggly, squeaky puppies who made me forget that I was infertile.

We started attending a nearby church. Not just any church, but a biblical, loving church body who embraced us like refugees.

I think I’ve finally realized why I’m here in this scarlet red Buckeye/Cavaliers state. God used Ohio to teach me joy.

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“joy”

And really, God could’ve taught me joy in Pennsylvania, if He wanted to.

But He didn’t. He plopped me right down in Ohio’s armpit and proceeded to cut me deep and bleed me dry until all of the temporary, earthly things I clung to as sources of joy drained out.

My joy is not in babies or the hope of babies.

My joy is not in work or the type of work I do.

My joy is not in the importance of my church mission or how much I serve.

My joy is in Jesus. Jesus who was first cut deep and bled dry so I could experience His joy.

Praise God, I now know a more permanent joy.

To the Bitter Before the Sweet

I pride myself in not holding grudges.

I don’t think it’s anything necessarily spiritual so much as a personality type that dislikes confrontation and would rather just let things slide like water on a duck’s back.

My mistake is often equating “not holding grudges” with “forgiveness”.

And I do believe that when I think I’m a-OK in something  (in this case, forgiveness; in other cases, trust in God), God takes no time to show me two things:

  1. I’m really not good at that something.
  2. Even if I am “good at something”, it’s not to my credit.

He’s used Lyme. He’s used moving to No-Jobs-Ever-Ville, PA and No-Money-No-More, OH. He’s used infertility.

Now He’s using you.

A deep-feeling, passionate human being who, perhaps unknowingly, broke my heart and wrecked my soul on the beaches of “Disillusionment about the Church”.

I’m learning forgiveness is not simply “de-friending” you on social media and forgetting we ever met.

I’m learning forgiveness isn’t conjured up through biblical counseling with mentors or a feeling of camaraderie with others you may have hurt.

I’m learning forgiveness isn’t fast and easy and doesn’t always stir up sweet emotions or warm fuzzies.

I’m learning forgiveness doesn’t immediately follow my ability to “see both sides” or “understand where you’re coming from”.

Because I did de-friend you. With full acknowledgment of how childish it may sound, I couldn’t see you on my news feed without instant bitterness.

Because I have sought counsel, biblical counsel, which is something you refused to give me.

Because I tried to brush my hands off and claim it was all forgiven. Really, though, I just was tired of thinking about you. About our imagined relationship. About the whole thing.

Because I do see your side. Or I’ve tried to see your side. Have you tried to see mine?

All this has shown me how far I am from forgiving you.

And this bothers me.

As proud as I am of my parents for raising me as a skeptic, I’m not entirely proud of the ungracious turd I turned out to be. My natural reaction is to bring down the hammer, or to write you off completely.

But that’s not God. And that’s not me, not the me with Jesus.

I definitely don’t like the bitter floods that well up on the off-chance that I think about you. About the clear message you gave me when you never contacted me again.

There’s an unforgiving side of me that prickles at the hurt. It heats my soul, my heart like rug-burn. I want to call you, to email you, to tell you just how much it hurts.

And then there’s the new, saved, Jesus-owned side of me that just wants to forgive you and move on. To someday think of you and pray more willingly for you and your family.

I truly want this.

I’m on my way, but I haven’t arrived. The burn is too tender still. I can’t  see you as the believer I know Jesus graciously made you to be.

Pray for me, however unwillingly, because I, however unwillingly,  pray for you.

 

Thus Far

Marriage is one of the most humbling, sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of. It forces us to wrestle with our selfishness and pride. But it also gives us a platform to display love and commitment.

Francis Chan

 

 

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January 5, 2013

The first few months was a tumbleweed of arguments and fights revolving around the dumbest things. Mostly, it was two sinners acclimating to living in one small space together.

I was so mad that you left a pile of clothes on our bedroom floor. It was as if you expected  me to pick it up for you. “You’re 27 and you can’t even put your own clothes away,” I remember sputtering through incredulous tears.

That was rough.

And then Lyme happened. You had to help me put on my clothes some mornings. You’d walk up the stairs behind me to make sure I didn’t fall. You’d wait outside the shower in case I couldn’t step out of the tub by the end of it.

I’d try to keep a stiff upper lip for our friends and family, but only you would see me immobile on the couch, arms stuck in T-Rex form or ankle swollen to the size of a cantaloupe, sobbing about not being the first-year wife either of us imagined.

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That was our first trial together.

And then you were laid off. I continued working busily, writing manuals and filming video tutorials. That was when we both realized different seasons require different roles. I realized it was my job to bring home the bacon — work wasn’t just a fun hobby anymore. You realized it wasn’t fair to not do some housework during the workday.

Remember when you got the job in Hermitage? I was so proud of you! I still am…

I remember looking for apartments. We wanted so badly to find a living space between your job in Hermitage and my job in Pittsburgh. But Hermitage won out because we ran out of time and options. I drove three hours in a day, three days a week. That wasn’t fun at all.

You realized this, and told me to find another job.

That was my last technical writing job.

I don’t think either of us realized how much I love working, how much I love writing manuals and online help and web content and proposals. But we were hoping for a family together. We had started planning for baby Hunters after our first anniversary, and I eagerly awaited for something to do with my time besides job searching.

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We found a church north of Youngstown — a gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church. We were so excited. Remember our first visit? How we felt we belonged? It was like a family reunion, the way church services should be.

I think you eased into friendships at church more quickly than I did. I was the odd woman out. It was as if the women in the church didn’t have time for a married introvert with no children, unless said married introvert with no children was willing to babysit their own brood. Perhaps it was all in my head. But you were the only one I told, and you were the only one who understood.

This church wanted to plant in downtown Youngstown. How convenient,  you shared excitedly with me, because I’ve been looking at homes in the Youngstown area.

I found the Youngstown Business Incubator. I pursued interviews with small software companies and their CEOs. I even met the CEO of the Incubator himself. All he wanted was a software idea. Remember my idea? It was pretty great, we thought. He and his interns didn’t really think so. I shuffled home from that meeting with my imaginary tail between my legs. I remember really wanting a milkshake.

We eventually bought a house here in Youngstown. Remember how excited we were? Well, I was more excited than you. But we both loved this old house. We fell in love with it. We saw its potential. We were still hoping for children, 15 months after our pact to strive for a family, and could see ourselves filling the old home’s halls with pitter-pattering bare feet and family traditions.

Remember all the wallpaper stripping? The carpet lifting? The gigantic dumpster we rented and filled to the brim with garbage the previous owners left behind? Remember how often I defended our purchase to you? I think you caught on quicker than I did. I was still holding out hope. I was still fighting for what we wanted.

That was the basis of most of our arguments. The house. The lack of jobs. The stress. The elbow grease. Actually, I think it was mostly the dog. You’re a cat person, but, first and foremost, a firm believer in no pets at all.

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I got a job shortly after we moved. It seemed promising. They liked me a lot. I did my job well. And then, without any reason except I “wasn’t a good fit for the company”, they dropped me like a hot potato. Remember how I was at home, dog sick with a monstrous cold my coworkers had passed around like a plate of brownies, and they called me and told me not to return to the building for my belongings?

I still don’t have my black fleece jacket they promised to mail back to me.

So I scooped up a job at Burlington Coat Factory. I was happy to be doing something with my life. But before I even started on my first day hanging clothing and stocking shelves, we found out that our church plant wasn’t going through? Our pastor and his family were resigning and scooting out of town? I not only had a clogged Fallopian tube, but your tests didn’t come back so hot, either? That our doctors and nurses and midwife all sorrowfully related to us our extremely poor chances at having our own children?

You dealt with it like a champ. You were saddened. You weren’t unaffected. But, like the calm, steady, reliable man you are, you were immovable. Your faith and trust in God’s will was unshaken. You were and are like a tower, a strong pillar.

And my emotions beat heavily upon my strong pillar like a hurricane. In true Pinkerton form, I hid my emotions until I spiraled head-first into a kind of depression. I loathed myself, I despised my life, I preferred to be dead.

I think that hurt you more than it ever hurt me.

And here we are, knocking on the door of our third year anniversary. We’re ragged and worn. I get phantom Lyme seizures in my joints sometimes. You get chest pain from stressing about our bank accounts and the decisions we’ve made. We’re putting our house on the market in two months. We were going to move toward Pittsburgh again, but I have a job interview for technical writing just north of Youngstown and it’s the only response I’ve gotten so far, so we still have no clue where we’re going to live. We’re no longer members of any earthly church, but we’ve learned we have no desire to plant a church and will never again move away from job opportunities for the sake of a pastor’s dream. We’re alright with not having children because, frankly, our dog is in heat and we’re getting a glimpse of what hormonal teenagers are like.

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We’ve fought tooth and nail, mostly as a result of my unhinged and unhindered emotions. I’ve sinned greatly against you, with seething words and overwhelming temper, and you’ve forgiven me unconditionally. We’ve both recalled with fondness the freedom and carefree life of singleness, and then found comfort and understanding in each other’s company.

It’s no wonder non-Christian couples call it quits after a few years. Marriage is no joke.

But I’ve found a Christ-like companion in you, my Mister, and I can’t imagine surviving the past three years with anyone else. So cliche, but it’s true.

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I love you.

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Martin Luther

 

To My Kind Titus 2 Women

First, thank you.

Your diligent, prayerful watch over my soul’s travels offers more encouragement than you know.

Your wisdom and discernment, gained through experience and quietly, graciously, resolutely given in conversation shows me what God has shown you and what a blessing older Christian women are to young believers.

Your joy in my joy, my accomplishments, my moments of revelation assures me I have an earthly cheerleader, someone in my corner, another woman with feminine emotions and desires who keenly understands my heart’s experiences.

Thank you.

Know that I appreciate your sympathy — no, empathy — when I tell you I might not be able to have children. I know that you, as a woman, as a human wired with motherly instincts, you feel with deep sincerity the hopelessness I felt when I first heard.

Know that I see the lights in your eyes scramble, most likely praying as I speak for words to say. And that whatever words you do  say, I know came from a kind, compassionate, hopeful, yearning heart.

Know that I feel your genuine hug, your comforting hand on my shoulder, your sweet disposition cringing, effortlessly feeling my emotion.

But know that I am a complete woman in Jesus.

I know you know this.

But sometimes, I think, Christian women tend to forget that our first priority as saved-by-grace souls is not to have a family.

It’s not even to get married to a saved-by-grace man.

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This infertility, this possibility of childlessness that seems to grow as time goes on due to birth control complications, processed food diets, and the cultural push to refuse marriage and motherhood until your 30s — this epidemic is sneaking up on the Church and the Church doesn’t know how to handle it.

I need to hear that God has a magnificent plan for me with or without children.

Not that an acquaintance was told the same thing by the doctors and well, she has a circus of children now.

I need to hear that my satisfaction is Jesus Christ.

Not that there are alternatives and I could always foster or adopt if I can’t birth a brood of my own.

I need to hear that God is teaching me something in this, that He is showing me contentment in His ultimate plan for my life.

Not that I shouldn’t give up trying to achieve my own desires for a family.

I shouldn’t feel like I need to defend God’s design for my future to anyone, especially a fellow sister in Christ.

I know you want me to experience your joy as a mother. I know you don’t understand why I’m not striving for medical procedures, why I’m trusting what my very careful and thorough doctor diagnosed, why I’m seemingly lying down in the dust and letting it all go.

I know you knew I was trying to have a family. You knew how much I wanted it.

I know how often you prayed I would receive it.

Thank you.

But now things are different. God is working to make me content in His decision. What good is it for me to dwell on whether God will change it up in the future? What harm will it do for me to rest in childlessness? Why do I need to hurry and foster or scurry and adopt? Can I not serve God as a married, childless woman? Can I not rejoice in the little things now, the Saturdays I’m able to sleep in, the Sundays where I only have to dress myself, the trips Mister and I can take without tiny humans interrupting?

Am I not whole in Christ? Was I not made complete in Him the very second He scooped my soul from the licking flames of hell?

Encourage me in what God has called me to do now, instead of stirring discontented hopefulness in things God has not promised to me.

I trust you to do this, because you are a beautiful, wise, kind, comforting, loving, godly, truthful woman of God.

I thank God for you daily.

Understanding Jonah

Jonah was a ridiculous man.

Granted, he was an appointed prophet of God. He, most likely, was a true believer in God. He demonstrates God’s incomprehensible desire to work miracles through sinful human beings.

But he was ridiculous.

Remember when he not only ran from God — an impossible feat — but stormed furiously out of a town that God graciously, mercifully, wonderfully, amazingly transformed from evil, wicked, hell-bound sinners to joyous, repentant, humble, redeemed sinners?

Remember when Jonah was so eager for Nineveh’s demise that he set up camp a little ways off and waited for the sonic boom?

Remember when, even though he was being the most smug little brat ever, God promptly, in His sovereignty, grew a plant to shade Jonah’s head from sun and wind burn?

Remember when he was exceedingly happy about the plant?

Remember when God sent a little bug to eat said plant and destroy it, and then conducted the wind to blow it away, shooing all of Jonah’s makeshift shelter and temporary happiness away with it?

Remember when Jonah threw a legitimate tantrum, wailing that it was better for him to die than endure such horrible circumstances?

And God simply reprimanded Jonah’s ridiculousness, reminding him of His greatness and His grace, a note on which Jonah decides to end his brief account.

How silly, we smirk. What a fickle, ridiculous human. Is he even a believer? He couldn’t be… how on earth could a true believer behave like that to the God of the universe, the absolute Sovereign God? I wouldn’t dare…

My fellow Christians. I have been such a Jonah.

God calls me to a life I never expected, a life for which I hadn’t planned.

I didn’t dream of being infertile when Mister and I were dating.

I didn’t anticipate searching for property in Pennsylvania while moving to Youngstown for the mission of the gospel.

I didn’t craft and complete my education around the possibility of never being able to work in technical writing again.

And perhaps, at the time, I was a little bitter about it. But the women on my mother’s mother’s side of the family carry a similar trait: stoicism. We glance sideways at incoming emotions and make the quick decision to absorb them and deal with them later.

Ain’t nobody got time for emotions.

So I ran the opposite direction. Because to face the situation head-on would be to acknowledge and praise God’s goodness and grace.

I went about my business obediently, as Jonah did in chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. I figured the cheerful attitude would follow eventually.

But first, the bitter tears and tantrums.

Perhaps I held out hope that ignoring the revelations in my life would rewind the clock or magically reverse the effects. Perhaps, if I just ignored the fact that I’m not getting what I want, I’ll get what I want in the end. Perhaps it’s just a test. Perhaps, actually, this month I’ll get pregnant. Perhaps, then, we won’t have to leave this house. Perhaps, this interview will turn into a technical writing job. Perhaps all the problems would go up in flames, like Jonah hoped Nineveh would.

But no. This month was just a fluke in the cycle, probably a product of stress. This house is still 4 bedrooms too big for two people and in a city without a church plant. This interview makes no difference at all because the office closed two days afterwards.

Perhaps the weight of putting all my hope in temporary thises is what shoved me face-first into mud and dragged me along by my ankles. But, for several days, to my own dismay, I heard my soul’s clamor harmonize with Jonah:

When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

Ridiculous.

And, until last night, I didn’t realize just how ridiculous.

Because last night, God asked me through my study of Jonah 4, “Do you have reason to be angry?”

Do you have reason to be angry about not having children?

Do you have reason to be angry about leaving this beautiful home?

Do you have reason to be angry about my dispersing your Youngstown church family?

Do you have reason to be angry about not having a job for which you studied and want so desperately?

Do you have reason to be angry about all your plans, hopes, dreams falling through at My almighty hand?

Do you have reason to be angry for losing the temporary “blessings” of this world in light of My goodness, in which you live, and My grace, by which you are saved?

No, I do not.

What a gracious God I serve. Praise the Lord who patiently deals with all of His Jonahs in love and mercy.