Jonah– a parable

photo of driftwood on seashore
Photo by Javon Swaby on

The Woodcarver saw it on the beach.  It was much larger than the normal pieces he would take to be turn into wooden utensils, statues, and a variety of tchotchkes for tourists. He liked pieces of wood that had character to them— gnarled branches, hollow logs, and even stumps with roots. But this big one caught his attention. Perhaps it is a bad choice. He could tell it would be a stubborn wood, difficult to work, dulling his tools. It also had knots in awkward places. But the Woodcarver saw something in it.


The Woodcarver saw a man. Maybe no one else did but that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. The wood just needs to be dried, carved, and post-treated. The end result will be a man. He may not look like the original wood, but it is the same substance, with the unnecessary parts carefully cut away. It may take a while, but vision and patience are key qualities of the Woodcarver. He could see the man in the piece of wood trying to get out. It will be done one day, but never sold. The Woodcarver never sold His best work.

It will be worth it… you just wait and see.

Grudgingly Faithful

My son was in college recently and a fellow student walked up to him and introduced himself. His name was Benjamin. My son did not recognize him at first. He mentioned that he lived near the church we used to be involved in. He attended the Friday night youth activities He was wondering if we were still doing them (no we are not). He really enjoyed them and was happy that we had committed to doing them.

I remember Benjamin even though that was over 7 years ago, and I led the youth activities for only a few months.

In 2007, Celia and I joined a churchplanting activity. We are not churchplanters generally. In Baguio City, one can hardly throw a rock up in the air without it landing on a church. But we had finished our field education at seminary for one church and we felt it time to go elsewhere. When an opportunity came up to join a new churchplant, we were excited. As a pioneer in the new church we got more involved in church activities than we had before. Our main ministry was mostly parachurch, at the time working on organizing medical mission events, and a local children’s ministry.

At this new church we were on the board of elders (we had a very relaxed governance). I was on the praise team (playing saxophone) and was a Sunday School teacher, and part of the preaching rotation.

All of this was fine, but the church needed someone to lead the Youth. I was asked.  I don’t like youth!! Teenagers annoy me. I like to say that I was never a teenager (not true, I suppose, but I never felt like a teenager).

Despite the stress of organizing and running medical missions, overseeing Kids Club activities, some cooperative work, leading Bible studies, preaching, and being a student in a doctoral program… the most emotionally tiring activity for me was the youth events. I did it for several months, but eventually the time came that I stepped out of it (I can ‘t remember the argument I used).

It is strange that Benjamin was not the first who had talked about the impact of those youth nights. I have had others also talk about it as important in their growth.

SOOOO… what does this ultimately mean?  To me it means this:

1.  We are designed by God to serve in certain ways and on certain things. God has given us giftings, talents, temperaments, passions and skills. Understanding these helps us know what we are supposed to do to serve.

2.  But God also gives us circumstances, opportunities, social connections, spheres of influence as well. Sometimes these are not in line with the things listed in #1. That does not mean we automatically say “NO.”

Sometimes we need to be available, even if grudgingly faithful, when God needs us. God used Jonah, a very grudging servant. Jesus called His disciples and pushed them to their limits and beyond with regards to their comfort zones as well.

God can use us in these grudgingly faithful moments. God can still change others through us. And God can also change us.