I have seen a notice on Face Book that says something like, “If God has called you to Ninevah, go already,” which is a reference to Jonah. Jonah was called by God to go to Ninevah but he didn’t obey and took a ship headed somewhere else instead. A storm came up and the ship was about to sink. Long story short, the ship’s crew threw Jonah overboard to save their ship and their lives. Jonah was swallowed up by a whale. When the whale threw him up on land he went to Ninevah and preached and the city was forgiven of their sins and they began to worship God.
My wife does a lot of gardening in the yard and on a number of occasions this spring she came across a few snakes in her flower gardens, which reminded me of the following story: There was a farmer who had three sons: Jim, John, and Sam. No one in the family ever attended church or had time for God. The pastor and the others in the church tried for years to interest the family in the things of God to no avail. Then one day Sam was bitten by a rattlesnake. The doctor was called and he did all he could to help Sam, but the outlook for Sam’s recovery was very dim indeed. So the pastor was called and apprised of the situation. The pastor arrived, and began to pray as follows:
“O Wise and righteous Father, we thank Thee that in Thy wisdom Thou didst send this rattlesnake to bite Sam. He has never been inside the church and it is doubtful that he has, in all this time, ever prayed or even acknowledged Thy existence. Now we trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson to him and will lead to his genuine repentance.”
“And now, O Father, wilt thou send another rattlesnake to bite Jim, and another to bite John, and another really big one to bite the old man. For years we have done everything we know to get them to turn to Thee, but all in vain. It seems, therefore, that what all our combined efforts could not do, this rattlesnake has done. We thus conclude that the only thing that will do this family any real good is rattlesnakes; so, Lord, send us bigger and better rattlesnakes. Amen”
This humorous story was sent to me by my friend Pastor Bill Newby in Kansas City, Missouri almost 25 years ago. The moral of the story is obvious, or is it? No it’s not about rattlesnakes or snake bites. Since you know that I am a retired pastor, you would probably guess that it is about God. That is a part of it, but that is not the moral here either. “What is it then?” you ask.
It’s about paying attention to the things which are really important in life. Most of us go merrily through life never giving thought to the fact that over half of what we do is not really important. Usually it takes getting “snake bit” to wake us up, and then it is usually too late.
Everyone told us that “Your children will grow up before you know it.” One day I woke up and realized all three of my daughters are grown. Even my youngest now has two children. Back when my eldest daughter was married and my middle daughter was a senior in high school, I began to contemplate what was really important in life. I had pastored and lived in Ecuador as a missionary. My oldest daughter graduated from high school there and my youngest had been born in Ecuador.
The Lord was good to us by giving us our third daughter who was just four years old when I began to understand what I needed to do. I enjoyed my third daughter much more than my first two. Not that she was any better than the other two. It was me. I was different. I love all of my daughters, but I had failed to realize with the first two how quickly they do grow up. Courtnee, knew that she could come and “interrupt” me while I was working on something or even writing one of my sermons. I didn’t mind. I had come to understand that she, my other two daughters and my wife were more important in my life than anything I could be doing. It wasn’t always that way. It took my 22 and 17 year old daughters becoming young women to make me realize that I had lost much joy in being able to share life in a meaningful way with them.
It seems now that God is giving us all more uninterrupted time to realize that family is more important than anything else. No, He didn’t send us rattlesnakes, and I’m not saying He sent this virus to us, but through the virus He is giving us the opportunity to have the joy of being able to share life in a meaningful way with our family. Take advantage of it and use it for your family’s good.
Jeremiah 33:11, “the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, ‘Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD.”
How long will it take us to realize what is important in life, and what is not? How many times will the rattlesnakes of life have to bite us to make us understand that life is fleeting and we must reach for the things that will last, and God is included in that.
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Times.