Text: Jonah 1:11-17
We say Jonah, you say Fish.
Jonah : Fish! Jonah : Fish!
There isn’t a Sunday School classroom in the world that hasn’t had the giant fish grace the wall of its bulletin board. Yet, there is so much in this passage we miss out on when we focus on that admittedly remarkable portion alone.
“Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.” ~G. Campbell Morgan
There slept Jonah, somehow, when suddenly someone woke him, confronted him: “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!”
Lots were cast, Jonah’s true identity revealed, the question asked: “What have you done to bring this upon yourself, upon us?”
Jonah knew. He knew exactly what the issue was, why the storm was beating upon their ship.
And instead of cower, instead of perish and take the crew down with him, Jonah charges head-first into the storm. He may have run from God at the forefront of this book but all that changes.
He owns his sin and disobedient heart, and finds a faith so deep he believes if he hurls himself into the sea his traveling companions will be saved.
His death would be their salvation.
I don’t know about you but I view Jonah with a heavy dose of admiration. He ran once, but when he realized the weight of his mistake, the enormity of his sin, he gave everything to reconcile with God.
Moments like this are not easy: when the tension pulls at our hearts, when the Holy Spirit nudges or even gives us a good shove, saying, “Look behind you, look around you; you caused this storm with your choices.”
In those moments, we stand at a precipice. We can hurl ourselves into the storms we have created in an effort to set things right, or we can continue hiding and bring down the ship.
There is hard, deep pain in owning our storms, but there is freedom in the jump from ship to raging sea. From our pain and shame straight into the arms of the only Grace that can piece our lives back together.
And when we least expect it God sends a fish to swallow us up and provide mercy we never could have seen on deck, as we clung to our choices. It’s not comfortable in the belly of the beast; it’s smelly and it gives us ample time to reflect on just how it was we got there. Plenty of time to wonder if there will ever be life outside of our prison of merciful guts.
But we serve a God of second, seventh and forty-second chances. A God who provides mercy in the strangest and most miraculous of places. He will not leave us storm-tossed and fish-bellied forever. There is new life on the other side of our storms, including those we bring upon ourselves.
May your hearts rest in the truth that you are immeasurably loved by a God who stops at nothing to redeem your story, to bring you back to Himself so that you, too, may contribute a portion in His vast story of prodigal love.
Guest writer Leanne Penny is a mother, wife, writer and wavering hope ambassador. She lives with her pastor-husband and two preschool-age children in West Michigan and loves yarn, wine and watching British telly.