Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. ~Jonah 2:8 (NIV, 1984 edition)
Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32). And for some reason that seems to fit the season for me. Wrestling with God seems like a very Lenten thing to do. It feels like the season in which God would get his hands on us, and we would get our hands on him, and in the process he would strip away all of the old and false that we are clinging to and replace it with the new and the true. Thus dying to our old names and our old identities in order that we might receive new ones. A death that leads to new life.
Jonah (Jonah 1:17-2:10) wrestled too, but his wrestling with God looked much different. He wrestled with God's plan and God's call and God's direction, so much so that he ran away; only to be swallowed by a great fish, in the belly of which he spent three long days and nights. Talk about wrestling! Can you imagine what all was going on in his heart and mind, and soul, during those three days? What in the world was God trying to accomplish in him? My best guess is that God was trying to empty him: empty him of plans, empty him of agendas, empty him of resistance, empty him of attitude, and mostly to empty him of self. Because that is one thing Jonah was completely full of. And when you are so full of yourself you are not much use to God. He has to take you to the depths. He has to take you to the end of yourself. He has to empty you. He has to take you to a place of extreme brokenness and of total surrender.
Jonah was clinging to worthless idols. In fact, he was clinging to them so tightly that his fists were clenched around them. And one of the major movements necessary in this life with God is the movement from clenched fists to open hands. When we cling to worthless idols, be they agendas or attitudes or anxieties or whatever, we forfeit the grace that could be ours. What a tragedy! What a shame that we will not let go or that which is worthless so that we might be given that which is priceless.
During this season of Lent, may God empty our full hands in order that we might receive his abundant grace. Lord, have mercy.