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Get me to shore again!

I know it is Christmas morning and this may not seem like much of a 'Christmas' message, but I think it may just be the one 'gift' we all need in our lives. In our moments or seasons of rebellion, there comes a time of realization - the moment in time when we realize just how far we have drifted from what God would have wanted for our lives. Those moments are described as being as low as one can go - being as far away from obedience as one can manage to get. In those moments, there comes a realization of where we are and we often find ourselves looking up - simply because there is just no help in looking down or in looking around! If we looked down - we'd only see our problem! If we look around - we'd see others right there with us, as helpless and lost as we are. When we look up - we see our hope for deliverance!

I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever—Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, and my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I'm worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I'll do what I promised I'd do! Salvation belongs to God! (Jonah 2:6-10)

As far as we can go - a description of the distance we have placed between God's purpose and direction in our lives and our obedience! Doors slamming shut forever - or so it seems in our finite understanding of the place we find ourselves. Yet...in the midst of our despair...God is never far from us. It is indeed a shame for us to get to the place where our "lives are slipping away from us" before we realize how much our disobedience has cost us. Jonah is an example to us of redemption - grace where it is least deserved. In the place of rebellion, we don't realize how much of "life" is slipping away from us. It may not be our literal "life", but it is indeed our spiritual life. We don't sense the loss associated with all the actions in between God's direction and our continual resistance to his will (directives) for our life. Yet, this "drift" is real - and it has a way of "distancing" us from God, and sometimes even from others.

Jonah was in such a place. I have no idea what type of fish swallowed him up - nor am I going to speculate on this one. I do know scripture says God prepared a place for him - a place for him to come to the realization of his need. This is God's way! He knows the exact point our turning will come and he prepares the exact place for the "dawning" of our awareness of our intense need for restoration - for being on the right track again. We may not get swallowed by a big fish, but I am sure we have all experienced some "big fish" moments! The "stuff" we are in just isn't all that pleasant - it smells awful, it makes us feel awful, and it gives us a sense of darkness which just envelops us. We don't need a whale to swallow us to come to the awareness we are not where we need to be!

The "big fish" moment may be what some refer to as "coming to an end of our rope" or "reaching rock bottom". Whatever the expression, the heart need is the same - deliverance! David finds himself in the misery of covering up his sin with Bathsheba, torn apart by his compounding it with the murder of her husband. His bones ache, his mood is foul, and he has no joy in all the luxuries he is surrounded with as King of Israel. Sin has this effect - it robs us of every one of the pleasures we once took so much for granted. It is actually God's mercy that allows for us to get to "rock bottom". In allowing the "rock bottom" moment, he also provides a way for us to get on solid ground again! The very next part of the passage states, "Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore." Out of darkness and foulness, God brought sound footing again! Look at when God does this, though. It is not when Jonah first goes overboard - there has been a passage of time in which Jonah comes to a place of realizing he has been running from the very thing God desired for him. David had this same "span" between his disobedience and God's sending Nathan to him to tell him the story of his sin and the hope for his deliverance.

We often need the "span" in order to come to a place of submission. We just don't recognize our misery until it has become our complete and total undoing. Truly, this is a sad reality, but something we see played out in life after life - including our own lives. There is hope beyond our imagining, even in that miserable place of absolute rebellion! In the moment of "rock bottom", God is prepared with the next move in our lives! In the moment of our cry for help, his actions are swift on our behalf. This is the God we serve - merciful, moved by compassion, and swift to provide for his children. It is far better to never reach the place of distancing ourselves from God - but if we have, we can rest in the absolute assurance of his grace! I don't know what "whale" has swallowed you whole, but I do know the seashore of God's deliverance awaits! All it takes is a cry for forgiveness! He does the rest! Just sayin!

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