But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?’ And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. (Jonah 4:1-2a, 5-6)
I am having more and more Jonah moments. The longer the coronavirus pandemic goes on, the more worn out I feel. Don’t get me wrong, I wear a mask because I care deeply about the health and welfare of others. I avoid large gatherings, I wash and sanitize my hands regularly, and I have become an expert at Facetime, Zoom and Skype. I know that we are all in this together and that we will only emerge strong from this when we put the common good ahead of our own individual wants and desires. I am on board with all of this.
But let me be honest. I get tired of stories and reports of people who don’t social distance, who don’t mask, who won’t take precautions, and who take unnecessary risks. I watch the spikes in cases following “super-spread” events and on college campuses, and it makes me think “well, why should I make all this effort when others are simply prolonging the suffering for everyone?” This is true, biblical, Jonah thinking. It makes me want to build myself a booth, sit in the shade, leaning back with my arms crossed, and just wait and watch what everyone else is going to do.
Jonah provides a glimpse of how God can use normal, sometimes cranky and contrary people to do great good. Being human means we get frustrated, we get tired, we get upset, we get angry, but it doesn’t mean we are bad people. God is patient with us, and once we get over ourselves and emerge from the booth we make in which to hide, God picks us up, brushes us off, and helps us get back on track. Like Jonah, I need to stop judging, stop griping, stop looking at the speck in my neighbor’s eye, and deal with the log in my own. I need to pray for others, not about others. And I need to pray for myself – not my will be done, but God’s.
It doesn’t matter how long the pandemic lasts – I need to be the best person I can be, doing what I know God wants me to do, and I need to be okay with this. I simply need to remember that I can do all things through God who strengthens me.
Prayer: Gracious God, forgive my impatience, my judgmentalism, my intolerance, and my condescension. Help me to assume the best about others, not the worst. Help me to give people the benefit of the doubt; I don’t know what others may face or be dealing with, and I need your help to be more kind and considerate. You have been gracious and forgiving with me, so make me more gracious and forgiving with others, I pray. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.