I seemed to have skipped a few passages along the way. I’m sure it’s no coincidence. So, I’m backing up and reading what I have missed. We’re going back to Jonah, or, um, Tarshish, or Ninevah, as it were.
photo: “Artisan Entertainment”
So, the familiar flannel graph story goes as follows: Jonah is a prophet, God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah, Jonah doesn’t want to go, Jonah gets on a boat in the opposite direction, God makes a big storm, Jonah gets thrown overboard, a big fish (always depicted as a whale) swallows Jonah, Jonah repents, big fish (always a whale) spits Jonah out onto the dry land, Jonah goes to Ninevah and the people repent. Moral of the story is always “listen to God”. Prayer and snack time.
I didn’t even know there was another part to the story until I was a grown up and read the book of Jonah for myself. There’s the whole other part where Jonah wants to watch Ninevah perish. Yeah, it’s rough.
But this time something else caught my attention. Before he pulls up an easy chair to watch Ninevah burn, before he’s covered in big fish bile, before he’s thrown overboard, there’s a scene with the sailors…
8 Then they grilled him: “Confess. Why this disaster? What is your work? Where do you come from? What country? What family?”
9 He told them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land.”
10 At that, the men were frightened, really frightened, and said, “What on earth have you done!” As Jonah talked, the sailors realized that he was running away from God.
Did you see that? The sailors, who were not of Jonah’s faith, realized that he was running from God. They knew he was sinning. Let’s face it, Jonah knew too. Jonah knew it. Jonah was outright disobeying God.
Do I do that? Do I go the other way when God tells me to do something? I think I do. Do you? Out of fear or pride or something else that seems perfectly explainable, do we go to Tarshish instead of Ninevah? And what do the people around us think when we’re doing that? Do they think, as the sailors did “What on earth have you done?”
I’ve been in the big fish before, stanky and squashy, I’ve evaded God’s directions, I know I have. Am I the only one smelling like krill and seaweed??
Ah, but then, we go, don’t we? After that time in the belly of the sea monster. After that time in the darkness, we go don’t we?
Yeah. I love that about God. He always gives us another chance.