Doest Thou Well to be Angry?
For a while, everything was going pretty well for me. I loved my job. I had a unicorn of a young single adult ward where I met amazing friends. I was busy every day working and serving. I felt 100% sure I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The Lord sent me to this place and time, I knew it.
But, as we all know, "nothing is so good it lasts eternally." Around the time I hit that painful 30th birthday, things started to change. I knew I'd soon have to leave my ward family that had truly become a family for me. I was dreading it. If you read my #StrongIndependentWoman post, you'll know I had a difficult end to a relationship that I wasn't expecting. Looking for solace, I went to the temple. I won't go into too much detail about my experience, but suffice it to say I received an answer to a prayer and I wasn't a big fan.
Sometimes, the revelation we get isn't, let's say, as welcome as other times. I'm not saying its wrong. God is all-knowing and I truly believe He loves me and wants what's best for me. But sometimes that is different than what I want, and sometimes that's hard to take.
I'm sad to say I didn't handle it the way I would like to have handled it. I have only been back to the temple once since then, and I'm going to be 35 in a few weeks. I'm still angry. I go to church. I pray. I do my calling (or I did before the pandemic when it was allowed). I just haven't wanted to temple. I put myself on a ship to Tarshish and I paid the fare myself. I'm hiding from the presence of the Lord.
But Jonah rose up to aflee unto Tarshish from the bpresence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/ot/jonah/1.p3#p3
See the thing is, it didn't go great for Jonah. There were tempests and high winds. The people around him were afraid. Now I haven't been cast over the side of a ship into the belly of a big fish, but things did take a little bit of a turn the last few years.
My perfect oasis of a ward changed. The bishopric changed. The relief society changed. Everything we built over years was torn down in a matter of weeks. I left. It was hard to leave, but harder to stay and watch it wither.
My dad died. Suddenly. Cancer sucks.
My job changed. drastically. We were a group of 20 people working really hard. Now we are a group of 700 people working harder and accomplishing less. Another blog post about that coming soon as well. I'm unhappy.
The last few years, though, I've really been stewing in my thoughts and cooking up a delicious batch of anxiety and depression.
There have been some other things, but you get the idea. These are my heavy winds and tempests.
I want to be clear. I don't think these things happened BECAUSE i haven't gone to the temple. I don't think God is punishing me. I think they all would have happened anyway. But they are happening.
So here's where I get back to Jonah. Jonah gets...expelled...by the big fish and makes his way back to the Lord's path for him. He goes to Nineveh and tells them they are gonna die, and then he goes up on a hill to watch the fireworks. But, see, these guys repented and the Lord forgave them. And Jonah gets mad. He's mad, because he got a revelation and he acted on it and it didn't turn out the way he thought it would. He thought he understood what the Lord was going to do. He had a revelation! But he only understood part of it. He forgot the agency of the other people involved.
So God decides to teach Jonah a lesson. Just like Cinderella, God makes Jonah a magic pumpkin. The magic pumpkin shields Jonah from the elements for a day, and then it gets eaten by a magic worm at midnight and the spell is broken. And, once again, Jonah is mad! He thought God had sent him this answer to his prayers, and then it was taken away from him. And then God asks the question I've been wrestling with.
Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?
And this is why I like Jonah. God says "doest thou well to be angry?" and Jonah responds: Yes! I'm going to die without that magic pumpkin and you sent it to me and then you took it away from me!
And God teaches Jonah the lesson. He says you didn't earn that magic pumpkin. I made it for you. You didn't work for it. It showed up one day and then it disappeared. And yet you are mad at me for taking it from you. It wasn't yours!
But, the people in Nineveh ARE mine and I love them and I sent you there to save them, not to deliver a message and watch them burn. Their agency and their choices are as valid as yours.
Most of the time when we tell the story of Jonah, we talk about running from the Lord and then we get super distracted by the fact that WAS SWALLOWED BY A BIG FISH and then pops right back out after three days. There's definitely things to talk about there. But I relate to the end of the story these days. I'm still a little angry that my magic pumpkin went away.
Jonah is one of those cautionary tale stories. Don't run from the Lord, or you'll be swallowed by a fish. We kind talk about Jonah like he's a bad dude. Don't be like this guy! But, this was a guy who was righteous enough to be sent to prophesy and brought a whole kingdom to repentance. This is a guy who had casual conversation with the Lord. He was probably doing a lot of things right. He's got his own book in the Bible!
And yet, he was human. He was disappointed and even angry when the answers to his prayers weren't what he wanted or what he expected. And I am grateful for that. Because I feel that way. I want to do most things right when I can, but its not always easy. People aren't all evil or all good. We are striving to be better.
Jonah knew when he messed up. He repented. And then he messed up again. Because that is what we do. And God still talked to him. Maybe God will still talk to me.
I'm still mad, but I'm working on it. Maybe, soon, "I will look again toward thy holy temple."