In the Whale

I wandered into Alex’s room yesterday morning and saw his Jesus Storybook Bible open to this image of Jonah in the belly of the whale. The story of Jonah is well known, but when you really think about it, the narrative seems pretty far-fetched. God had big plans for Jonah….a job he didn’t really want to do. Instead of head to Nineveh like God had asked, he decided to run as far away as he could, hoping to escape his “fate”.

After getting on a boat headed in the opposite direction, he found himself in a fierce storm on a sinking ship. The only way to be saved was to jump overboard. Jonah was miraculously saved by a huge fish that God had sent to rescue him. SERIOUSLY….when you think about it……this story is so crazy! That fish swallowed him up to rescue him. Jonah wanted to hide and escape and be “safe”, avoid Nineveh. And he got his wish, but in such an odd way. He was safe all right…in a stinky, big, slimy stomach of a fish.

When he was finally “spat” out from the belly of the whale a few days later, he went for it. When asked again to go to Nineveh, he didn’t hesitate. He went. Despite running and being afraid, he eventually set off to send a message of love to his enemies. To offer a message of forgiveness.

That picture of Jonah in the belly of the whale has been at the forefront of my mind. As school is coming to a close this week, I have felt, even though surrounded by colleagues and students, that I’m also in the belly of that big fish…fumbling around in the dark, wondering what the next step is, knowing it will no doubt be a challenge. Now that we are so close to the end of the school year, I’m looking around at the students and colleagues surrounding me and find myself feeling sad to be done and say goodbye. So many lessons taught, but mostly so many lessons learned.

Transitions are hard for me. Especially stepping into the next step, having no clue what the months ahead will hold. I like to have my calendar set. My commitments lined up. Saying goodbye to my school this week, without knowing if I have a job and if so, where, is tough. I value investing in the community I’m part of. Instead, after this week, I’ll be walking away from 6 months of growth and investment and moving into something new (working with the 3 year olds at the preschool!). And as for fall? Who knows.

But this week, I’ve related to Jonah. The polar opposites of wanting to run away and shirk the challenges of investing in tough places and also stay put and take risks. Through this all, I have been reminded of the gift of God’s presence. God who seeks us out, even when we are trying to hide or skirt the inevitable that feels so overwhelming. Best of all, though, I know he finds us, not to scold make us feel like kids in time out. But rather, to walk alongside as we enter into the next place.

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