I’ve related to Jonah far more than any other character in the Bible. Which isn’t really something to brag about. Through different seasons of my life, different aspects of the story have stood out to me. But right now on a more basic level.

I keep running from God.

I continually think I know better or know a shortcut when really I’m just running hard and fast from conviction.

I’ve recently heard the word ‘stronghold’ used in this context. It was like a lightbulb burst on and then exploded, shattering the preconceptions of my issues.

The devil personalizes our temptations. He’s a crafty joker. I mean, why would he tempt me in areas where I have strong self-control or no doubt? He’s going to entice me in the sexiest way possible. He’s going to make running from God look dang good.

Poor Jonah. He really thought he knew best. Or maybe He thought that God just gave Him a suggestion and that if he went another way God would reroute his destiny accordingly. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps.

So I’ve been running. I know I need to get in shape, but running from God is not the way to do that. I’ve been prioritizing things above church and community. I’ve been filling my time with pleasure. On the surface, life has been good.

But beneath the surface, my heart needed more. The relationship I was created for wasn’t being nurtured. And so I thank God for The Grove. Each month Passion City Church hosts a night for the women of Atlanta. It has ministered to me since I’ve moved up to the city over a year ago. Even when sick from the mold, I always prioritized the Grove into my schedule. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to come along. And if you can’t make it in person, it is now an official podcast!

Last month Mo Isom spoke on strongholds in a way I had never heard before. It shook me up inside, yet even after, I still pressed on INTO the stronghold and not against it, or into God.

It is the one area of my life I literally hold very strongly to. As if I actually have any control over my life at all. In reality, I can give myself over to the elements and consequences, or to God. That should be an easy answer, yet I still look down and find myself white-knuckling that area of my life, like I’m in a game of tug of war with the Creator of the universe.

So all month I’ve been struggling to suppress my convictions, thinking I knew best. I jumped on the boat heading as far away from Ninevah as I could. And while I worry people will think I’m weird for my convictions,  my struggle is nowhere near as scary as Jonah’s calling to witness to Ninevites.

Then I get to The Grove this month and God uses Shelley to deliver His word. I have two of the godliest friends I know on either side of me, worshiping and giving me hope. David Crowder is belching out some beautiful swamp hip hop worship, and the ENTIRE message I am battling God.

I know what I need to let go of. But I like it and I don’t want to. And just because the thing I use as a stronghold isn’t inherently evil, by prioritizing this over God when I feel called to let go… That’s been eating me alive inside.

I listened to Shelley, but I’m pretty sure the message I received wasn’t even the subject. God had his own agenda for my heart. I’m going to have to relisten to the podcast to make sure I got it all.

Still not having fully let go, needing to tie up loose ends and confess a few sins, I go on my merry way. Still not sure if I can surrender. Jonah’s story keeps popping up in my head. I remember the storm that came as he was sleeping on the boat. His decision to run from God affected others. I want to be a blessing to others. I do not want my lack of obedience to bring others hardships.

I start playing Crowder’s new album in the car. Songs of freedom. Fully away that I am the only one holding myself captive. God’s already freed me and I’m the one running away from this faith, love, and freedom.

So tonight I let go. I am going, and I am sinning no more. I am running to the freedom that grace provides. Just like Jonah, this might be a constant battle of the heart, but by His grace, I will renew my mind and run the race marked out for me.