by Jonathan Krause

‘Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore’ (Jonah 2:10 MSG).

It started when the gearstick fell off my hotted-up Ford Falcon.

Then came the letter from the tax office saying that I was to be audited.

It ended with me leading a chapel service for 600 young people with a message entitled ‘Vomit’.

Along the way, I learned that my stubbornness was no match for God’s directness when he wanted me to discern his will.

You know how it is when you start out as a young family. You’re still in the relatively early days of your working life, so your salary is low. Young children to care for mean there’s only a single wage. Money is tight, so your house is modest, and your car is second, third or even fourth-hand. At least that’s how it was when I was at that stage of life.

Our car was an old Ford Falcon, with a great big motor you could hear grumbling two suburbs away. Bright yellow because it used to be a taxi.

Of course, having been a taxi it had done way more kilometres than what the salesman said, and so needed repairs every week or so. Still, it was a surprise when the gearstick broke off as I hunted for reverse. I tried a pair of pliers on the bit still sticking out to change gears, but I knew a hefty bill awaited me.

Meanwhile, the tax office decided the $3.50 I had claimed in deductions was worthy of an audit.

I was broke. Anxious. Desperate.

Then, two things happened.

A big charity called up and offered me a job on double my current salary – plus a brand-new shiny car. My prayers were answered! (Even though I hadn’t been bold enough to pray such a thing.) God is good!

Then, I received another phone call. This time it was a Lutheran school in Queensland. They invited me to come and be their chaplain for six months, while their current chaplain went on long service leave. All I needed to do was move my family from Melbourne, be a chaplain on top of my existing job and have no extra money to get us out of the hole we were in.

What to do?

The smart answer was obvious.

The charity job would sort out all my human problems straightaway. The chaplaincy job would shift me a million miles out of my comfort zone – I had no theological training and just two months of training as a teacher before I realised it was way too hard. And it would double my stress. And my big yellow Falcon would still be broken.

Nevertheless, as a good Lutheran boy, I thought I had better pray.

I was clever though. I did the Gideon thing and gave God a test that I was sure he would fail, meaning I could in good conscience go to the big-paying job with the lovely new car.

I prayed: ‘God, if you want me to be a chaplain, sort out my tax.’

You and I both know that no-one can beat the tax office, so I started planning what colour my shiny new car would be.

I prayed that prayer in the morning.

When I came home from work that afternoon, I opened the letterbox. There, I saw a letter from the tax office. Opened it. No audit. No problem – and a cheque big enough to fix the Falcon!

So, a week later I packed the car with the family and whatever possessions would fit inside and drove three days to Queensland.

That’s where the vomit comes in.

No, not out the window from car sickness … but because I felt like Jonah. I’d resisted God’s will for me, yet God had other plans.

While Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale, I spent three days in the belly of a Falcon. Then we both got vomited up on a beach, where God could use us to share his good news, in places we neither planned nor wanted to be.

So, of course, my first chapel devotion had to be called, simply, ‘Vomit’.

Each day of those six months in Queensland as a chaplain was a challenge. I was pushed way beyond anything I could humanly do. In truth, probably the school was too – I had hair down to my waist, delivered the Year 10 Christian Studies sex education class using the Meatloaf song ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, and taught marketing principles to Year 12 students as we discussed effective evangelism.

Still, we know God uses the least likely and most under-qualified to do his work. All you and I are called to do is plant the seeds and marvel as God does the growing.

And if you don’t/won’t/can’t hear his call or discern his will for you, then make sure you watch out for your tax return … and be very careful when you’re changing gears!

Currently Australian Lutheran World Service’s Community Action Manager, Jonathan Krause has discerned God’s will for his life as a teaching, and fiction and sociology student, a writer of greeting card poems and devotion books, and various other roles in print communications, and in fundraising and marketing – oh, and of course, as a college chaplain.

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