Having read the ever-so-slightly marvellous post from myawesomeoliveshoots.com earlier today, which looked at the beginning of the book of Mark (Mark 1:1-8 GNT), I then found myself reading a similarly-themed passage with my youngest. The first few verses of Mark tell of God’s messenger, John the Baptist, and how he convinced people to repent from their sins and turn back to God. Chip and I were reading, quite coincidentally, the story of Jonah. The children have had a day off school today, because of the snow (incomprehensibly – it’s slush more than anything). We read the story of Jonah in the Good News Translation and in the Jesus Storybook Bible. If you have children, or even if you don’t, it’s a wonderful book. In this excerpt, entitled ‘God’s Messenger’, Jonah decides he doesn’t like God’s plan, and invents his own.
‘Jonah went ahead with his not-very-good plan. “One ticket to NOT Nineveh, please!” he said and boarded a boat sailing in the very opposite direction of Nineveh.’
How many times have you done the same in your life? I’m not sure I like your idea, God. Mine seems much more sensible. You don’t really know what you’re doing, do you, being all remote and holy and all that? Probably got far better things to be taking care of I shouldn’t wonder. I’ll take over, don’t worry... Before you know it you’re buying a ticket for NOT Ninevah.
If you’re wondering – no, I do not believe Frank and I have done the same and that that’s why it’s all gone wrong. We prayed every step of the way. In all this mess and confusion, God’s unseen hand is at work. Certainly I have become more assertive these past few months. I am also thoroughly enjoying – thriving – having my husband working solely from home. It has been that little bit of time together that we never had when we first met. An aggressive, autistic child, as Prince was back then, and two very little girls meant that courtship was almost nonexistent. We stepped straight into domesticity – for which I have never stopped thanking God. At the time, I was captain of a sinking ship, doing my best but my best was never enough. In stepped my rescuer, my beloved Frank. I’ll never forget the first time he told me to go and have a rest and he would deal with the kids. Hallelujah! How wonderful! This is how my husband teaches me, daily, about Christ.
Anyway, I am getting sidetracked (I could write forever about my lovely Frank, but if you want to read more, go read Song of Songs). Back to my point: no, we did not board the boat for NOT Ninevah. We boarded the boat into the unknown; we have been faithful. It all seems to have gone pear-shaped, but I have learned things along the way. Invaluable things. We have become closer as a family. We have had to; there’s been no one to rely on but one another. We have also begun family bible time, every night. As part of this, we have begun learning this prayer, an abridged version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, from the book Christ Within Me: Daily Readings from the Anglo-Saxon Tradition. This prayer dates to a time before even Catholicism entered these Isles. I love the ordinary, everyday simplicity of the Celtic tradition, and it is this homeliness of Christ (which Julian of Norwich also refers to, several hundred years later) that I want to share with my children. I love hearing the small child’s lisp echoing these ancient, power-infused words. It’s like ‘putting on the full armour of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-18) in one beautiful prayer:
Christ Within Me
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to harken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me.
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
From Christ Within Me: Daily Readings from the Anglo-Saxon Tradition. Prayer originally written some 1,500 years ago. Incidentally, Patrick was a messenger too.