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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Being Jonah

A few years ago I had a dream.  I was sitting in a little brown rowboat in the middle of a clear blue ocean.  All alone and going nowhere, just sitting.  I was looking down at myself and I could see a huge mouth, beyond the size of the rowboat, wide open and rapidly approaching the surface.  I was about to be swallowed by a REALLY big fish.  I woke up confused about what my dream could mean; partially because I am scared of the ocean and Lord knows there is no way in the world I would be in the middle of the ocean.

  Not in a boat, not on a goat, not eating oats, because I can't thank you Sam-I-Am. 

The second reason my dream was confusing is because I did not see the link between myself and the prophet Jonah; I wasn't running from anything and God was not sending me on any great missions

Jonah was a...unique prophet.  His uniqueness stems not just from his reluctance to follow God's intended direction, but from his outright defiance, his stubborn nature and his unveiled anger.  Being the stubborn person he was, Jonah decided (I'm paraphrasing) "screw the Lord's command, I'm not up for that assignment" and he hightailed it out of town.  Doing the complete opposite of what he was instructed to do.  Jonah soon learns, you will walk the path you were destined to travel, it is up to you whether you get there by discipline or obedience.  Storms were sent, Jonah was thrown overboard, he prayed and was delivered.  The rest of Jonah's tale does not get any better, surprisingly his preaching works, but he is angry that bad people are shown mercy and upset that his comfortable resting spot is destroyed.  Jonah is not the prophet that most people think of when recalling 'great' prophets but Jesus Himself references Jonah when describing his future destiny.

Soooo....why the dream revelation and the little bible lesson on Jonah?  I realized this week that I am Jonah.  There are more days and nights that I do not want to be a public defender than there are where I am glad to hold the title.  As Jonah looked upon the people of Nineveh with disgust and a sense of loss, I often look at law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and, sadly, some of my clients with the same sentiment.  I am ashamed to admit, Dear Reader, that there are some nights that I am angry with God for placing me in this line of work.  And for making me incapable of turning away from it.  My "big fish" that keeps spitting me back on the path I was intended to travel is the 19 year old kid that I visit in jail because when his 14-year-old ex-girlfriend told him she was 18, he believed her.  I pack my bags and climb aboard the ship to Tarshish and then I see a guy brought into the courtroom, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles on his feet, simply because he drove with a suspended license, and my "big fish" has me sitting in the chair next to him trying to figure out how I can help.

I find that I am becoming Jonah because while I may be moderately good at what I do, while every now and then the judge, prosecutor or my client may even listen to me as the people of Ninevah did, a small part of me gets angry.  I'm angry that the officer who got caught lying on the stand, gets chewed out by the judge but then released to arrest more people and build a case on his lies.  I am angry with the prosecutor who refuses to make a reasonable offer simply because she has taken something my client allegedly did or said at the time of the offense as a personal affront to her as a human being.  I am angry with the judge that punishes the person who decided to exercise their right to remain silent, with a guilty verdict.  I'm angry with a country that could give a damn about indigent defense or the fact that I carry over 300 ACTIVE cases at one time. I am angry with the client that picks up new charges before I have even finished closing the last open file I had for them.

But mostly I am angry with myself.  I am angry with myself because I was warned not to take the work home with me, not to dream about it, shower with it, eat with it.  I was cautioned against skipping lunch, missing sleep and not taking care of myself as a result of getting engulfed in the lives of everyone riding on my back.  I was warned, but I didn't listen, and now I want to run. 

I find myself pacing in the middle of the night, defiant, reluctant and angry like Jonah; and like Jonah deciding "screw the Lord's command, I'm not up for this assignment."  Then the next morning, I wake up, put on my big girl clothes and head back into Nineveh.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.