do well and let go.

The sun was high above us and the air cool in our wake as our family parade of misfit bicycles set out—leaving the long driveway behind. Jake took the lead on his lime green bike with Norah in tandem on a bright pink fifth wheel. Lily, our oldest and only independent rider on the long trips, took up the middle space. I pulled up the rear with Sawyer and Jude in a trailer that, in all its faded teal glory, was once mistaken for an old paddle boat. Each time we trek out on one of these rides, we elicit smiles and second glances from almost every passerby.

We ventured out on our regular route, turning down a path that led to a big hill and then wove through the woods next to the river. We rode under a highway overpass, and I reminded Lily to be careful on the gravelly stretch that hadn’t yet been redone. Eventually we came to a familiar fork in the road but chose the road less travelled—a stretch of bike trail we had never ridden before. It took us around a pond and back into a wooded area at which point Norah threw back her head, stretched her legs wide beside her, and yelled, “This is the longest bike ride ever!”

And it might have been, given that we don’t normally stray too far from home with the kids in tow. Eventually, the path led us into a residential neighborhood. Instead of staying straight and heading toward home, Jake went left, and as I turned my bicycle to follow him, I realized the road he had chosen was a straight incline for at least a half a mile. I stood on my pedals and pumped—my legs burning with each push. We’d been at this for 6 miles already, after all, and I was pulling 70 pounds of chatty dead weight behind me.

I can do this,” I thought, in an attempt to empower myself. I started to hum that Miley Cyrus song about uphill battles and finding what’s waiting on the other side, and by the middle of the hill, I was in a groove. I was going to make it without stopping, and it felt good.

Then, without warning, Lily slammed on her brakes and stopped in front of me.

“Lily! Don’t. Stop. In front of me!” I punctuated the words sharply, which is to say I yelled them as I rode around her on the grass, angry and unwilling to interrupt my steady momentum.

“I need a break,” she said as I passed—her body splayed forward across her handlebars in exhaustion. I noticed a couple walking their dog on the other side of the street watching us, and their witness to my overreaction deflated me. A new Miley Cyrus song filled my head as I felt the shame of my anger and slowed to a stop. All my kid wanted was for me to wait while she caught her breath, and I came in like a wrecking ball.

\\\

Most people know the story of Jonah.

God told him to go to Ninevah—to call the people out for their wickedness—so God could save the people there, but Jonah, instead, turned in the opposite direction. Then there was the storm. The big fish. The three days in the belly. The dry land. The return to Ninevah. The repentance. The Lord’s compassion and forgiveness.

But then the biblical account ends outside of the city with a part of the story I don’t remember many of my childhood story books including: The part where Jonah sat in the hot sun and begged God to let him die. He was angry that good had come to Ninevah. He wanted to die rather than witness God’s mercy and steadfast love heaped upon an entire city. In response, God asked Jonah a simple question: “Do you do well to be angry?”[1]

The obvious answer is no. It didn’t do Jonah well to be angry, especially about a situation that had little to do with him personally. But, he dug in his heels, and said straight to God, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”[2]

Jonah annoys me. When I read the four chapter account, I hear that old Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers Saturday Night Live bit in my head: Really, Jonah? Really? You couldn’t deal for like one day for the sake of an entire city’s salvation? You watched God’s love in action and then a lack of shade sent you over the edge? Really?

At his core, I think Jonah felt inconvenienced. God upended his life for the sake of another. God sent him to do something bigger than himself and Jonah was flat-out selfish about the whole thing—making sure God knew he didn’t like how this had turned out for him. 

Cue the camera pan. Seth and Amy turn their attention toward me. Really? 

The heart of so much of my anger, as far as my children are concerned, is a feeling of inconvenience. The request for a glass of water as soon as I sit down at the table to eat my lunch. The fight that needs intervention while I’m in the middle of a scroll through Instagram. The footsteps above my head right after I sit down on the couch at the end of another long day. I am constantly inconvenienced by my kids. And, what’s more, I constantly make sure they know it. My days contain so many snapshots of rolled eyes and sound bytes of deep sighs or snippy retorts. Jonah was sent over the edge by his source of shade shriveling up which isn’t unlike a stalled bicycle forcing me to adjust my trajectory. I see Jonah’s selfishness when he tells God he does well to be angry, and I wonder if that couple on the other side of the road—the ones who bore witness to me yelling at my exhausted six-year-old—saw mine.

“Really?” they probably mouthed with a sideways glance to each other.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Jonah; the account ends with a question from God. There are no details about where Jonah went next or what became of his life. Did he go back home and pick up right where he left off? Did God send him anywhere else? Did he let go of his anger?

That’s what I wonder most about Jonah. Did he carry the inconvenience of his narrative with him or did he let it go?

I like to think he let it go. I like to think that after his conversation with God, he finally realized he wasn’t the main character in his story and then made his life about doing whatever he could to amplify the goodness of God. I like to think he stopped caring so much about inconvenience and changes in plans and roadblocks in the middle of the sidewalk.

It’s possible. God’s grace is big enough. Really.


[1] Jonah 4:4, 9a

[2] Jonah 4:9b

One thought on “do well and let go.

  1. Did you really just weave motherhood and introspection and scripture and SNL references into one beautiful piece? Bravo. From one constantly inconvenienced mom to another, thank you for this.

    Like

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