God commanded Jonah to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Jonah refused because not only did he perceive the people as wicked; it was the capital of Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s biggest enemies. Instead of obeying God and heading to Nineveh, he sought passage on a boat headed in the opposite direction. But God sent a violent storm that almost tore the boat to pieces. Once the crew realized Jonah was responsible for the storm, they threw him overboard. And Jonah was swallowed up by a fish and remained there for three days.

With a newfound perspective, Jonah repented and prayed to God to set him free. God heard his cry and the whale spit him out — exactly where he started! On foot, it took Jonah three days to arrive in Nineveh and deliver God’s message.

The story of Jonah is an easy lesson to convey. He was disobedient, headstrong and thought he knew better so he refused to answer his calling. God punishes him, as He does with all of us and he subsequently repents. BUT something else about this story stood out to me:

God spit him out where he first started.

And that’s exactly how my life has gone. I’ve been laid off countless times and lived paycheck to paycheck for so long, I was beginning to believe that’s all I’d ever do. It seemed as if every time I took three steps forward, I went five steps back. What was most frustrating was that I was doing everything right. I excelled at my job, I went to and volunteered at church, read the Bible and refrained from dating. But during these past five months, I’d been spit out and placed in the same financial situation I was in when I chose exotic dancing 19 years ago. I noticed it quickly and immediately recognized it as a test; God was testing my faith in Him. But, Jonah’s story revealed a dimension I’d been missing: it was time to answer my calling.

When I was married and a stay-at-home mother, I began speaking for RAINN and volunteering in my community. I understood my calling was to help other child sexual abuse victims but I wanted to do so during my free time or on a part-time basis. It was my intention to work it like a side gig so it wouldn’t cross over into my “real” life. I didn’t want my family and friends to know too much about my past. So I did everything I could to keep both lives separate.

That wasn’t how God wanted me to handle it. As I published one anthology after another, I knew I was supposed to write my story. Heck, I always wanted to tell my story but the older I got, the less transparent I wanted to be…especially after having my son and working for a company I loved. But, God saw fit to lay me off. I couldn’t understand why I kept getting laid off. After all, I was doing everything “right.”

A friend of mine explained it simply, “you know what you’re supposed to do. But you got comfortable at that job and put it on the back-burner. God wanted to get your attention.”

And that He did. The moment I got laid off, I started writing my book and finished it in 12 weeks. But it was done out of reluctant obedience; my spirit was still rebellious. My primary goal was to get it done so God could reward me with a job.

But as the months wore on, it occurred to me that God didn’t just want me to do what He asked. He wanted me to do so cheerfully. I always thought this verse only referred t tithing, but 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 refers to anything God wills you to do:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

So, I’ve stopped trying to hide my past and restrict social media posts from friends and family. And the moment I changed my perspective and “sowed bountifully”, things began to change. Not only was I becoming more comfortable owning my story, but doors were opening up in places I never imagined. And I eventually landed a job! And I did so by remaining faithful, patient, in prayer and not relying on myself or man. Not only did I grow through this experience, but I managed to maintain my integrity in the process.

If there’s something in your heart you know He’s called you to do, step out on faith and do it cheerfully. You can’t run from God.