Jonah, Nicole and The Divine Pursuit

I found my first upside to being the last person I know to jump into the blogosphere: established friends who get excited about swapping ideas on one another’s blogs. So a few weeks into this adventure, I have the privilege of having my first guest post-er: Nicole Unice. I met Nicole at a writer’s conference a few months ago; she was a friend of some friends whose passion for God, his people and the story of a guy named Jonah was so contagious I couldn’t help get excited about all three. Read her story below and you’ll see why. Oh, and be sure to check out her website and download her new study, The Divine Pursuit.

The Divine Pursuit by Nicole Unice

Becoming a counselor is a weird sort of schooling. What other graduate program teaches you how to listen, ask good questions, and read interpersonal dynamics? Who but future counselors study nonverbal cues, birth order, and “solution-focused questions?” Counseling techniques easily transform into entertaining party tricks:  “Let me guess,” I imagine saying to my unsuspecting acquaintance while swirling my drink, “your deepest fear is turning into your mother, whom you find yourself resembling more each day?”

There’s another side to studying therapist techniques. Developing questions that pry back even the hardest shell takes practice. And there’s only one person that accompanies me to sleep, to the bathroom, to work—other than my toddler. It’s me. I am the unwilling recipient of my own therapy.

So I paid attention when I got all emotional about the story of Jonah. Do you know him? The bible Jonah, the telling-God-N-O Jonah, the swallowed-by-a-fish Jonah? Think way back to Vacation Bible School. You probably sang a song about him or maybe smoothed him up on a feltboard next to a smiling whale.

 Jonah disobeys and isn’t loving, or at least, that’s the point when we tell the VBS version. But when I prepared a teaching series for a women’s group on the book of Jonah, I found myself stirred up, almost resentful, of what Jonah had become in those children’s stories. Like Jonah is a flat caricature painted by a heavenly hand to make us feel good about ourselves. Hey, at least I didn’t have to be swallowed by a big fish to listen to God. At least I wouldn’t defy God like that.

I got emotional because I thought Jonah could have had some reasons for running. That maybe following God’s orders and going to Nineveh was something excruciatingly hard for Jonah, something that felt impossible to do.

 And then the therapist in me listened closely and asked a piercing question: “Hmmm….interesting. What are your Ninevehs?”

 Hmmm is right.

 I pondered my own Ninevehs and the Ninevehs of those I’ve counseled. I thought about the pattern of fleeing, obeying and resisting God found in Jonah—and found in me. I considered the things in life that would make me want to lob a fat N-O in God’s face, modern-Day Ninevehs like:

 Living joyfully in difficult relationships.

 Struggling through a hard marriage (or waiting on a good one).

 Fighting with addictions.

 Battling fear.

 Making peace with the past. Wrestling with unforgiveness. Learning to wait. Embracing uncertainity. Raising difficult children. Choosing to care for aging parents. Going back to work when you want to stay home. Having children. Not having children. And the list goes on….

 Holy Spirit calling: Jonah is me.

 Jonah is you, too, if you’ve ever wanted space from God. If you’ve ever escaped from Him in heart or in action. Jonah is you if you’ve ever wondered how or why God would talk to you—and if you would obey. I know one thing: Jonah’s not a platitude to mount on a cross-stitch and hang in the bathroom. It’s raw, real life. It’s one of the many things I love about God–the way He enters our disheveled reality. The way He knows our crazy souls. And the way He shows us His soul for us, and for all his creation.

 If you can relate, take heart, and take another look at Jonah. You might just find a friend.

 Nicole Unice is a counselor and blogger working in family ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA.  Her six-week guided study of Jonah, The Divine Pursuit, is available as a printed version or free download on her website. An online community using The Divine Pursuit begins 9/15.

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2 thoughts on “Jonah, Nicole and The Divine Pursuit

  1. Interesting. I just had God reveal a Nineveh in my life also. I am in my Nineveh (Cincinnati) in an area I never wanted to be- living close to my parents who are the most challenging people for me to be in relationship with.
    I am dependent on my good days, angry on my bad days. It is a constant checkpoint for my soul. Am I choosing comfort and distance over God’s calling for my life? God’s love toward others is flowing through me, whether I like it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice.
    Even most Christians who know the situation look at me like I’m insane for being in the same state as them. Sometimes I give in to this line of thought. Then I read Scripture, I look at Jesus’ constant themes in relating to others, I look at my idols of comfort and self-sufficiency, and I quietly sense God confirming His call for my life in accordance with Scripture.
    It is good to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, who wants to produce fruit in me and that usually doesn’t happen through easy, comfortable, self-fulfilling experiences- unlike what this culture would tell us.

    Like

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