I am thinking about the story of Jonah in the bible today. Yes, we all know, even those who have little church / Christian connection, that Jonah was swallowed by a whale ( or a big fish ? or maybe it is all in fact metaphor?).
I read two verses from Jonah this morning which essentially say this ‘Jonah was thrown overboard and was swallowed by a big fish. Jonah prayed to God from inside the big fish’.
That made me laugh. What a ridiculous outcome of being thrown into the sea. Who would have predicted that ? I was struck (maybe for the first time) about the shock for Jonah, of being swallowed whole and alive. Why did he pray? I guess there wasn’t much else that Jonah could do once he was in there.
And I wondered …is that what has happened to me. Was I thrown overboard because I was headed in completely the wrong direction ? Was I thrown off the ship before it reached its destination – in my case the ending of two marriages with the consequent devastation of two families, and many other circles of people?
When things ended with the other I felt like I’d been hurled into the dark, emptiness of a dead marriage, but in that darkness Hope swallowed me. I found myself in a dark (but safe) place; and in that place the only thing I could do was pray to God. I didn’t think that there was anything I could do to improve my situation. All I could see was the darkness. I had no idea where I was going or where I would end up. Jonah was the same. I let myself trust in hope, not because I believed it was going to help me but because there was nothing else to do. Jonah had no choice about the big fish. It saved him from drowning, but I can’t believe that it felt like a great alternative whilst he was in there…….
Until the moment he was brought to shore and he realised that he had been rescued.
In situations like the one I have found myself in there is a lot of talk about moving on, letting go, getting past things. And although I agree that those things will (in time) happen, I don’t think that they can until I have really come to understand what I have experienced. At the moment there are still many things I don’t understand. There were complicating factors to the relationship which are still being worked through and there are many questions in my mind which remain unanswered BUT I have reached a place; a beach, the shore, where I can see that what has passed was rescue.
Rescue of the whale–swallowing, Godly kind.
I wonder when Jonah lay on that shore, did he look back and focus on the experience of his sinfulness in running away from God, and the harsh actions of the sailors in throwing him overboard (although Jonah made the offer and suggested they do that, maybe he really hoped that they would say no, they couldn’t possibly) ? Or was Jonah so amazed and overwhelmed by the events which led to his stumbling alive on to a beach that his mind instead turned to God’s goodness ?
As I look down at where I lie ( I don’t think I’m standing quite yet) and see the beach, the memories of being thrown overboard begin to fade. It becomes less important to analyse the role of others in my fall overboard. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at the fact of my rescue.
And as I begin to dry off, put on fresh clothes and eat some food I become more ready to look to the next steps, and I can see that this is where Hope has taken me.