Once upon a time, there was a man named Jonah. One day, God told him to go to Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to go to the evil, debauched city of Nineveh, so he exercised his God-given right of free will: Jonah got on a boat and sailed in the opposite direction of Nineveh. But God had a different plan; a plan in which Jonah went to Nineveh. So God sent a terrible storm to harass the boat, providing the very first example of the phrase, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.” The sailors grew terrified: what should they do?
Throw Jonah overboard? Row to shore? Either way could anger Jonah’s Lord.
Throw? Row? Throw? Row?
Jonah finally provided the answer, and told them to throw him overboard…into the raging sea...unto certain death. However, let us remember, it was God’s plan, not Jonah’s plan; so the sailors sent Jonah into the raging sea…and God sent Jonah into the mouth of a great fish.
Talk about a captive audience! Jonah….in the whale….in the sea! Upon reflection of the events that led up to this address change, Jonah acquiesces, repents, and tells God, “Okay, you win. You sent me to the depths to die, but you brought my life up from the pits. What I have vowed, I will make good.”
And then God’s great fish, very unceremoniously, vomits Jonah onto dry land, and on his way to Nineveh.
Which is where he should have been going in the first place!
There’s more to this story, but this is the part that I’ve always liked. Why? Because Jonah not only thinks he can do anything he wants to do, he exercises his “free will” in doing so: he defies God, not only by not going to Nineveh, but by sailing 180degrees in the opposite direction! While Jonah’s busy doing “his own thing” instead of “God’s Thing,” look at the havoc wreaked around him: damage caused not by him, but because of his defiance. Only when Jonah’s forced to see the power of God, does he bow to God’s will. Only when his environment is God-provided and controlled does Jonah reflect upon whom he is challenging, and concede. In the end, in spite of his free will, Jonah accepts God’s will, and heads for Nineveh.
Score: God Won
Jonah Lost (days)
Personally, I connect with Jonah. At various times in my life (almost regular intervals), I have found myself in the midst of the raging seas, all because I wasn’t going the direction that I knew God wanted me to go. And so, with an oft times heavy hand (but thankfully, no great fish), my course was corrected. I would be steered in the right direction, until suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, I’d find myself again on that raging sea, once again asking myself:
“Am I ignoring my Nineveh? Is there something or somewhere else I’m to do or be?”