In the belly of a fish.

IMG_7501We read Jonah’s prayer this week in my Friday morning women’s small group:

Then Jonah prayed unto Jehovah his God out of the fish’s belly. And he said, ‘ I called by reason of mine affliction unto Jehovah, And he answered me; Out of the belly of Sheol cried I, And thou heardest my voice.For thou didst cast me into the depth, in the heart of the seas, And the flood was round about me; All thy waves and thy billows passed over me.And I said, I am cast out from before thine eyes; Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; The deep was round about me; The weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed upon me for ever: Yet hast thou brought up my life from the pit, O Jehovah my God.When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Jehovah; And my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.They that regard lying vanities Forsake their own mercy.  But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of Jehovah. And Jehovah spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”

We read this and were given the back story through this lens: God wants Jonah to go to Ninevah. He doesn’t want to go and makes plans to go to sea in the exact opposite direction. When they go out, a massive storm starts rocking their boat and Jonah thinks it’s his fault. So he decides to jump overboard–sacrificing his life to please God. But instead of drowning, he gets swallowed by a whale. Swallowed by a WHALE! A whale that God PROVIDES. From inside the fish he prays this prayer, and then three days later the fish vomits him onto dry land.

IMG_7342In my own mind, I picture it happening like this:

God says to Jonah, “Hey, I need you to do something.”

Jonah and his big ego says, “No.” Or rather, he says nothing and runs. Away from God.

He runs to catch a boat, and a crazy storm hits. Old testamenty thinkers say it’s because God is mad, but I don’t really believe in a God who punishes people for their actions in anger or jealousy. What happens is nature, one massive, maddening storm that maybe Jonah could have avoided if he would have listened and surrendered to what he heard. But he didn’t, and he’s in the midst of a major problem. He thinks God’s mad, and instead of choosing to talk to God or get quiet and still and pray, he throws himself overboard–further into the mess and madness. Further into the depths and darkness. Into despair.

God rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath, drama queen. And then God sends him a Whale. To save him. Because he’s not done with him yet. He has hope and love and plans.

Why does he send a whale? Why three days? It’s a time out. To think and get really still and sit and surrender. In the middle of a fish. Slimy and stinky and funky but also angelic and holy. A way to save him, in a way we might not recognize. Not every angel is shining and dressed in ethereal white. God’s like that. He sends us here like that too. In the belly of a woman, where we are birthed in slimy, primordial fluid and flesh. Miraculously messy. Awfully holy.

IMG_6444In my own life, I think of how many times I’ve repeated this Jonah pattern. Over and over.

One day I’m sitting still, and I get this undeniable urge that I am supposed to do something (quit throwing up when I was bulimic, sell my house and quit teaching to go to Ayurveda school, use my knowledge to help people with health coaching, do acts of kindness every week and blog about it, etc.) I could go on and on about what God has nudged me to do.

The next day, instead of listening to the voice within me that is not me, I start panicking and listen to my fears instead. And then I’d find myself with my head hovering over the toilet, staying in my house while the market crashed, doing Ayurveda school on-line and then switching directions and doing IIN, not use any of it and working in water conservation instead (while feeling massively in over my head, like a fish on dry land, anxiety ridden & depressed ), etc.

And God probably looks at my fearful actions or worse–my fear-induced paralysis, and mutters under his breath, good freaking grief.

Until I wake up, in the belly of a fish. Or with a baby in my own belly–that I am powerless against. I have no choice but to surrender to the biggest craziest whale-sized love that this is. That God sent.

And now I must grow and change and choose love over fear for my son. I must learn to sit still and be quiet to listen and pray to God even in the busyness of new motherhood. Because in my heart I know that my son will learn to live by the way I choose. Because in my heart I know that my son will see the world the way I do. Because daily he shows me God, and how God must feel when he watches all of us.


With so much big, crazy, beautiful love.

3 thoughts on “In the belly of a fish.

  1. So true. I live out this same pattern so often in my own life as well. Part of me thinks it will be a lifelong relearning on how to surrender. Like we need those constant reminders in order for our own compassion and love to grow. I am thankful for a God who is patient with us and loves us unconditionally through it all.

    p.s. I always love your pictures!

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