We've been walking our students through Jonah over the last few weeks and we've been trying to challenge them with some important questions each week.
The first week we had them think about what God was asking them to do that they were running away from (you can probably see how that fits with Jonah 1).
Then last week we had them reflect on a dark or lonely place they may be in and how they may be able to see God in the midst of that (similar to Jonah's cry out to God from the darkness of the belly of a fish).
Last night we had the students ask themselves "what is God asking you to give up or turn away from?" We looked at the city of Ninevah and their response to Jonah's warning that they would be overthrown in 40 days if they didn't turn from their evil ways. They completely gave up their way (those Assyrians really were psycho, weren't they?) to call out to God.
Well, we decided to give the students something tangible to do. So my wife took the time to cut some strips of cloth (we were going for a "sackcloth" kind of feel) about an inch wide and a foot long. Then the students were asked to write one each piece of cloth what it was that they felt God was asking them to turn away from or give up.
They were then supposed to take the cloth and tie it to the cross as a way of saying to God, "I'm giving this up to You." Then they took a smaller piece of the same cloth an tucked it in their pocket. They were to keep this smaller piece nearby to remind them throughout the rest of the week of what they were giving up to God, and to also serve as a reminder that God would help them with it. (I wouldn't dare think that any of us has the strength in and of ourselves to give up some of the things we wrestle with.)
I'm not doing justice to this through a blog post, but it gives you the overview. Anyway it was quite something to watch as our students took these little pieces of cloth and tied them to the cross. Here's photo of what it looked like when we were done.
Last night my wife and I sat down to read what the students wrote and all I can say is that it makes my heart heavy to see the things that these students are wrestling with. My prayer is that Jesus will provide comfort for many of them this week; that He will give them the strength they need to leave this parts of their "old lives" behind so they can continue to live their "new life" in Him.
If you wouldn't mind, could you pray for our students?