by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty
“But Jonah ran away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:3 NIV
In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at church one Sunday, I told the story of Jonah and the big fish to the four-year-olds.
The hard part wasn’t bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the their level: little people who still get their fannies smacked when they run away from adults. No. They got that all right.
The hard part was how to tell it so they’d understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God. Not even a four-year-old would believe that.
So I asked how many of the children like to play hide-and-seek. Every hand went up.
“Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place like this one?” I put my hands over my eyes and said, “Okay. I’m hidden. I can’t see you so you can’t see me either, right?”
The kids laughed hysterically.
“Or how about this one?” I tried to squeeze my jumbo adult body behind an itty-bitty kiddie chair. “Can you see me now?”
“Or maybe you’ve been here.” I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head, and reached out with both hands – searching, groping, even becoming a little tearful as I fell to my knees.
“Did you leave me?” I called out in faux panic. “Oh no! I’m all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. And I’m so scared! Won’t someone help me?”
No laughter this time. Something had resonated with those little people.
I hadn’t expected this. Silence, so thick you could cut it with a knife. I wasn’t sure what to do next.
The kids apparently identified with my aloneness, with Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it, isolated … frightened … confused.
Suddenly a little voice piped up. A warm voice heavy with empathy. “It’s okay, Miss Debbie. We’re still here. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.”
And then I heard footsteps mounting the stage and felt a tiny hand take mine. Then dozens of small hands found me, surrounding me with comfort and hope.
There I was, kneeling on a stage with a brown paper bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a horde of uninhibited children who understood what it felt like to be alone and afraid – and didn’t want it to happen to me.
I was incredibly moved.
Running from God is something we silly grown-ups do, isn’t it? We actually think that secret sin of ours is secret and an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God somehow doesn’t know about our hidden shame.
So we isolate that part of ourselves and try to hide it in a cold, dark spiritual place that reeks like the innards of a gutted fish. We feel alone. And scared. Because our heavenly Father isn’t there.
But He is. He is. Like Jonah, we only have to call for help to be heard. “Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1 MSG).
Then Papa God’s warm, comforting hands will reach out from the darkness, enveloping us in forgiveness, redemption, second chances … hope.
That flash of blindness with the preschoolers truly opened my eyes. It was one of those rare teachable moments of adulthood that knocks your well-ordered world off its axis and cracks open the door for a glimpse into a higher realm.
Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.
“Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant. Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.” Psalm 119:76-77 NLT
About the author: Debora Coty is a speaker, columnist and award-winning author of 200+ articles and over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over 1.2 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. Besides donning her floppy flowered hat as the Bible Story Lady, she enjoys teaching piano, mountain hiking, choco-scarfing, and playing tennis. Debora lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband and five feisty grands living nearby. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.
Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms, addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.
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