The Year of the Whale

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“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:1-3)
Sometimes, Jonah is the story of our lives. We know what we are supposed to do, we know what is required, but somehow, we just can’t see our way to it. We run, heading off in the opposite direction, believing we can flee from it. But fleeing doesn’t necessarily involve going somewhere else. We can flee and never leave the comfort of home, because ignoring something, neglecting it or procrastinating is also a form of escape, a mental one. When we focus on anything and everything, but what we know we are called to do, we are just as guilty of fleeing from God as Jonah was, only without having to pack any bags or pay a fare.

Whether it’s physically or mentally, usually running away doesn’t turn out so well. Sooner or later, our actions cause the people around us anguish, putting them in distress for our sake, while we slumber through the storm, until we are roused from our stupor, are tossed into the raging waters, and find ourselves in the belly of a beast.

At times, we have to get to the very end of our rope, before we even consider that we may have made the wrong move, and in those times, we usually have to crash into the tumultuous seas of consequence, before we look up, before we remember God.

So what can we do, then, from the depths of our denial? Jonah’s answer was prayer. He prayed for forgiveness, for mercy, for repentance and thanksgiving, promising to turn back, to remember God and to make amends by saying, “what I have vowed, I will pay,” because the thought of being banished from the sight of the Lord, was scarier than setting out to do His will.

Jonah knew that submitting to God’s will is a hard task, costing us everything, and on occasion, even our very will to live. Maybe that is why we resist, because it doesn’t turn out to be what we hoped or longed for, what we expected for our lives, but is exactly what we knew He would do, what we expected of Him.

No matter how far we run, or how many times, the Lord, in his mercy pursues us with His abounding love and grace. He patiently waits for us to turn, to realize how fully we live when we submit to His ways, reeling us back into his presence with arms wide open.

And for his mercy, I am grateful beyond words. Praise God.

Proverbs 1:8-9 Listen to the Old Folks

I just love reading multiple translations of the bible. It gives such insight, like looking at an intricately woven tapestry, where the care and attention of the artist is visible in the finished piece. In the same manner as a master weaver, a translator must take into account the full measure of the intent of the words he chooses – not just the individual words, but also the intent of the sentences, paragraphs, and the chapters.

In the New International Version Proverbs 1:8-9 reads: Listen, my son to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching, they are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. These same two verses in the New Living Translation read: My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.

By reading the same verses through different translations, we can see how they extoll the rich reward we gather to ourselves when we honor our mother and father. Our parents didn’t start their lives on the day that we were born, and they have brought to our lives, not only all that they have learned through personal experience, but also all that their parents have imparted to them through discipline and instruction. It seems important to God that if we want to gain wisdom, we must be willing to listen, to be open to what others have to offer us through their experience, and to be able to learn from it.

So the first step to gaining wisdom is to admit that we don’t know it all, and the second step is to listen, and through listening gain knowledge and instruction.