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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Whale Did Swallow Jonah Up, Jonah Up, Jonah uuuuup...


I often wonder about Jonah’s three days in that whale. As the narrative goes, after three nights in the large fish, he prays to God, God induces vomiting, and Jonah is spit out onto the shores. So what took Jonah so long? Why did it take him three days to beg for an escape from the cavernous insides of a whale?

Perhaps he was unconscious. Perhaps his prayer was three days long. Yet I propose that Jonah was comfortable.

Jonah, who would later get angry with God as He saves the life of 120,000 Ninevites, volunteers himself as a sacrifice for his crew of sailors. When the crew came to Jonah asking what would end the violent storm Jonah said, “pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the storm will become calm for you" (1:12). Jonah, while perhaps acting as a sacrifice for his crew, is simply asking to end his life. He would rather be swallowed by the walls of salt water than stay to struggle with who God has created him to be. So filled with shame and distress, the volunteer Jonah, is thrown overboard. Rather than drowning, God sent a fish to swallow him, and it was there that he lay for three days.

Imagine. Imagine being stuck in a dark, wet cave for three days. It would be like getting stuck in the “it’s a small world” ride at Disneyland, minus the lifelong neurotic damage caused by that song. Imagine it. I cannot imagine that it smelled nice. Jonah did not have a bottle of Febreeze to fight the smell of seafood and mildew. It had to be miserable in there! But for Jonah, perhaps it wasn’t so bad. He didn’t have to go to the city where God had called him. He didn’t have to love his enemies. He didn’t have to use his prophetic abilities. He got to hang out on a giant fish tongue for three days.

Jonah enjoyed avoiding himself.

I think that as individuals many of us experience this same rebellion. There is something about the way we were created that scares us. There is something about our passions, our talents, and our situatedness that leads to rebellion. There is something about our feelings, dreams, and gut that we throw over board. God has created everyone one of us in his image, yet at times we hate the burden of “being me”. We would rather hide in the stomach of a whale than live into the life that we have been created to live.

Yet the reality is...we cannot avoid who we have been created to be.

Jonah, running from town to city, inviting death by asking to be thrown into a violent sea, swallowed by a whale, ultimately ends up on the shore of the city he tried to avoid! While Jonah tried to end his image-baring life, God sends Shamu (or Willy, whichever you prefer to envision) to swallow him and store him for a while, knowing that Jonah must live into the Prophet he was created to be. Knowing that Jonah cannot avoid the life he has been created to live.

The story of Jonah shows us that it’s ok to be reluctant. God spares the life of this reluctant, disrespectful man knowing that history would not be the same without him. God shows that as we run from who we are created to be, he will continue to spit us into situations that bring out the uniqueness in us all. As cheesy and redundant as this statement may be, this world needs our unique imprint.

We may fear our true passions and hide them behind conversations of money and success. We may ignore our gut in the name of church and work. We may despise the praise that we receive, because we are unsure if we are worthy of such praise. We look to him or her. How can we be more like him? How can I look more like her? We look for a script that we can borrow so that we can live lives without personal convictions. Yet, we have been created. Uniquely. By a God who asks us to live into our original createdness.

And the good news is when we run…we will be swallowed. Because the world needs us. Each unique, different, strange, one of us.

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