It’s funny she picked the story of Jonah because it’s one that has great meaning in my life. And if I haven’t had the chance to enlighten you on my opinion of this short but important little Old Testament story, allow me to share: It’s about obedience, yes, but it has a startling little message about codependency as well. And it’s one that reminds me every time I read it (which is about 15-18 times a week right now) that sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is walk away. And oddly enough, when Lizzie is staring into the screen and belting out “Let it Go” along with the totally alienated Queen Elsa on her journey up the North Mountain, I am reminded that the process of letting go will be a lifetime battle, and hopefully one I can share with my children as they grow up.
Jonah, as you may know, was an Old Testament prophet called by God to visit the frightening and twisted population (Ninevah) of a god-forsaken pagan nation and deliver an ominous warning about their wicked deeds. Fearful, Jonah gets on a boat to go in another direction (Tarshish) as quickly as possible. As Lizzie would say “Jonah say ‘I not go to Nivenah, I go to Tarsis! God can’t see me here!” and so he falls asleep below the deck as a terrible storm begins to terrify the ship’s crew (picture the moment when Anna and Elsa’s parents’ ship is tossed and turned on the sea.) The sailors begin praying to their own gods, begging for mercy and for their lives. Finally, the captain of the ship (who obviously knows that Jonah is a prophet) wakes the disobedient messenger and frantically begs him to ask His God for help. Jonah knows that the storm is his fault, and he tells the sailors to throw him into the sea. He realizes that the entire ship full of people is in terrible danger, because of his own disobedience. After trying unsuccessfully to maneuver the ship, the desperate men finally decide to throw Jonah overboard- especially in light of his confession that he has been disobedient to God.
Read the rest of the book of Jonah if you are interested in how the story plays out. And I know it’s entirely possible you won’t come to the same conclusion that I did. But I hope this is a message my kids will remember as they grow. There will be people who come into your life – for whatever purpose, and do not make the right choices that will point you to the Lord. And at some point these relationships may become a liability – a toxic relationship that is only causing you to drown. I’ve been in those relationships before, and I have not always been wise about tossing the disobedient one over the side of my proverbial ship. So, I don’t intend this to be a lecture – just a reminder. With some people, you have to “let it go” – it’s not your fault, it’s not your responsibility. You’ve gone as far as you should go with this person. There is no reason for you to suffer anymore because someone is refusing to make the right choices for their lives. Holding on to this person, this relationship, or these circumstances is going to mean that you will go down with them. Instead, God may very well be calling you to haul them up on the side of the boat and give them a giant shove- right down into the deep abyss of their own consequences.
Believe me when I say it doesn’t escape me that my opportunity to become a mother only took place because someone else was a complete failure at being a mom. That is sad, and it’s something that I will have to discuss with my children over and over again throughout their lives. The termination of parental rights that takes place before a child is available for adoption is a long and painful process. A judge and an entire team of child protection services specialists must decide together that it is in the best interests of the child (or in our case, children) that their parent-child relationship is severed, ended, aborted, terminated. Being a part of that process is hard. But I can hope (and do pray) that as God saw Jonah in his disobedience, still loved him, and sent a giant fish to swallow him (and later return him to the land), God will always care for and provide a way to save those who still call out to Him for help.
Jonah eventually obeyed God’s call to go to Ninevah. That won’t always happen for everyone we let go. Every single day in my job and in the lives of the other brave foster-adopt families that we know and love, we see how disobedience and selfishness and fear have driven people apart. Every day I meet kids who are torn apart because they can’t bear to let go of a parent who has neglected them, abused them, or turned away and abandoned them. Broken promises are all around us in this life – but there is one thing we can do. We can let go, and let God (thanks, Alcoholics Anonymous) and that is exactly what happened to the ship after the old prophet was thrown overboard. The storm stopped. And yours will too. Just let it go.