I am Jonah. Not the cute, felt-board Jonah from Sunday school or the spectacle-wearing asparagus from Veggietales. I’m the Jonah that gets it when I’m sitting in stomach acid but whines about first world problems the next day.
Seriously. Reading Jonah for at least the fourteenth time the other day, it hit me. This is me. In just two pages God describes me. (I so wish I was that good of a storyteller.)
Here’s a prophet, an elite God-follower. Jonah tells others about God full time. He probably felt pretty good about himself, until God asked him to do his job. I’m not even a prophet, and I usually feel like a pretty decent Christian.
Then God says crazy things like, “You need to stop being ‘professional’ and talk to that coworker, Mary… I want to save the man who raped and murdered that girl… Oh, and terrorists who hurt everyone with their cruelty, like the Ninevites, I want to forgive them.”
Are you nuts, God? Some people deserve to be punished. That family will hate me if I befriend the man who raped and murdered their daughter.
That’s exactly what Jonah said. I might not hop on a boat across the world, but I’m pretty good at running, pretty good at procrastinating, getting distracted. And I’m also good at pointing the finger.
“Hey, God, those guys just committed murder by throwing me into a stormy sea. Why did you stop the storm for them? I mean they were accomplices. They knew I was running away from you.”
“This is about you, Mary,” God says as I’m sinking. “You needed to be thrown in a stormy sea, and I told them to do it.”
When I’m sinking, when the whale swallows me up and I’m sitting in stomach acid, I get it. This is where I am without God—dead. I’m as helpless as the murderers, but God forgives and saves. Everything he does, even drowning me, is good. So I say a heartfelt prayer like Jonah.
“I’m sorry for turning away from your love. Thank you for saving me. I promise to follow through. I’ll tell them salvation comes from you.”
So I do. Spit out of the fish, I rush to tell them before I lose my gumption. Then I sit and watch.
“Really, God? Are you really gonna let them off Scott-free? All I did was procrastinate a bit and you almost drowned me and got me eaten by a fish. They’re despicable, and you’re just forgiving them?” The hot sun is making me rage. “Oh, and by the way, the only good thing I had in this world, a little bit of shade, you just killed that. I want to die.”
“You didn’t make that plant and you didn’t take care of it, Mary. But you care more about that plant than a city of people.” He’s making me feel the heat because I already forgot about the stomach acid. “I made each person in that city, and I take care of them. Shouldn’t I care more about them than you care about this plant?”
“Oh.” Maybe I got that… maybe I’ll forget in a couple minutes.