Day 11. WILLING TO GO, BUT OPEN TO STAY?

Read Jonah 1:3 Who is your enemy? Truth-denying post-moderns? Witches? New-Age healers and astrologers? Maybe gays and lesbians? Paedophile child molesters? Street sleepers or drug-pushers who target school kids? Quite possibly it could simply be dead ‘religionists’ who deny God’s Word, and are resistant to Gospel change, and dismissive of God’s Spirit. For some, God’s challenge is the call to reach out and transform such people progressively over time. But most of us have no inclination to even attempt this.

This is why Tarshish can look so attractive. I once spotted three hitchhikers upon entering Junction 22 of the M6 slip-road. Their destination cards read, ‘Carlisle’, ‘Glasgow’, and…‘Anywhere but here’! We’ve all know that feeling! Tarshish represents our ‘Anywhere but here’. We often prefer somewhere else to the place God has called us to. For Jonah, that ‘Anywhere but’ was to the extreme west of Israel, across the Mediterranean as far away as he could sail to, in southern Spain near the Straits of Gibraltar! A Mediterranean ‘Get-away’ all of his own.

A gateway adventure, and the start of a brand new career, Tarshish was a place of legends. He’d read the travel brochures. It was the ‘ideal port’, far more exciting than Nineveh’s heat. Exotic, exciting, and surely a greater priority for God! Tarshish represents a ‘distant paradise’ in the popular imagination. Eugene Peterson notes, “In Tarshish, we can have a religious career without having to deal with God.” We might add, “And without any bothersome people too!”

For some of us, it is the Ad in the back of ‘Christianity’ magazine that draws us, or the brochure for that large church, or new church plant in Torquay, Cumbria, or sun-soaked Florida. Here is the perfect ‘get-away’ from the boring, bland, banal and bruising work of witnessing where you presently are. An exit from the control freaks who are trying to box you in and ruin your life! Tarshish pictures the romantic ideal, the elusive El Dorado of a fantasy world we’d prefer to this one.

Someone needs to remind us regularly that Christian service and work are not a glamorous vocation, and paradise in Tarshish is simply a lie.

What ‘day-dreams’ do you entertain for your ‘escape’ from where the Lord has sent you? Lay before him your fantasies, then be willing to finish the commission he’s asked you to see through, and complete.