One of the reasons I think we make Jonah out to be a fishy farce of a story is because if we bring it too close to our hearts, we will see ourselves in Jonah. I have worn Jonah’s sandals when God calls me to go somewhere I would prefer not to go. I have pretended to be confused or said, “Sorry, God, bad cell reception in here. You are breaking up. I’ll call you back.” And then never try God back.
To be sure, the Ninevites to whom Jonah was being sent to preach/convert, were those people. The enemy. Imagine God calling you to talk to someone who voted for the other candidate. God calling you to talk to that family member who pushes all your buttons. God calling you to go to that place where you are all uncomfortable and even a bit scared. I find myself saying, "Seriously, God, I would love to, but I am super busy right now."
I have worn Jonah’s sandals when I idealize heading somewhere exotic because that what Tarshish still is. Even when our grandmothers said, "The grass wasn’t greener over there." We all thought, “I’d better check it out, just in case.” It is not just that we flee, we head toward that which promises to provide us with a place on easy street. Rarely is life better there and we end up admitting that our grandmothers were right! Finally, when the storms of life start to roar and rage, I like Jonah, tend to give up. Just make me some fish food. Come to think of it, I would rather be swallowed by a fish than see my own reflection in this reluctant, rebel prophet of God.
When we are brave to enter this story with hearts wide open, we start to uncover our foible, frail fleeing ways. Yet, God, named fourteen times in this book of the Bible, continues to journey with us. When we are lured by a new job or new volunteer opportunity or new committee that will be so much better because we where we are now we reason, has all these humans hanging around. Yet, God, named fourteen times in this book of the Bible, says all are my beloved children. When we would rather deny or dismiss God’s call, God persists as a presence in our lives.
Where is your life and Jonah’s life twisted and tangled together?
Is there something or someone you push away, while your heart says, “Perhaps you can reconsider?” Is there a moment your mind says, “Flee,” while your souls says, “Stay”?
Is there a moment you think, “I am doomed,” only to hear that with God we are able to accomplish immeasurable more than we can imagine?
I invite you to continue to let this Jonah story sink, sing, and settle into your life. Next week I will post some more about what happens in the belly of whale, or big fish, or whatever it was God had transport Jonah back to where he would prefer not to go.
But for today and in the days to come may you and I both sense traces of God’s grace in moments of laughter as a way to see ourselves fully. Amen.