Your message? It’s just that—it’s yours
It’s true that you have not been swallowed whole by a big fish. It’s also true that you, like a man swallowed whole by a big fish, have a message to share.
Your message is completely unique, completely your own.
I’m not sure what your message will be. As for the soul swallowed whole, his message is found in Jonah 3. This chapter is where Jonah, who had been fish food for three days, finds himself in Nineveh, the very place he never wanted to go. Having just been tossed onto the beach from the most unlikely ride in human history (yes, no one else has ever traveled by fish only to be tossed onto sand), Jonah receives his second message from God.
“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and deliver the message I have given you.”
Unlike the first time, Jonah obeys.
Jonah’s message to the Ninevites is classic evangelism. “Turn to God,” the never-want-to-be-prophet says to an entire city that has turned from God. There’s a bit more to this streetside preaching about fasting, but the people who are sinful stop sinning, fast, and, in forty days’ time, God blesses them. God restores them.
Maybe your message is classic evangelism. After all, it worked in the past.
Maybe your message is different—entirely different—but you are not so different than Jonah.
Yes, I repeat, you have not taken a ride in a super-sized fish, but, like Jonah, you have been in the dark. (There were not even exit lights in the belly of living submarine.) There has been a time or two when you were deep in the depths of something not so good. Grief. Loss of health. Bad choice. Financial hardship.
You couldn’t get out.
You also didn’t know how long you’d be there.
You may be there now.
I find it interesting what scripture says. I also find it interesting what scripture doesn’t say. You get the gist of the story of Jonah from what this column shares. What scripture doesn’t share is that Jonah did not know in advance that his ride to Nineveh would last three days.
“Three days?” He may have thought. “Well, while indeed this isn’t the most comfortable place, I can make it in the belly of this fish for this long.”
Then, too, maybe Jonah knows what you know, which is this. “Even in this wet, dark, smelly place, God is with me.”
What we do know is something changes for Jonah while he’s heading to Nineveh. Scripture reveals what Jonah does say to his intended listeners. Scripture doesn’t say how his message is sent.
I can’t imagine Jonah’s words—Jonah’s plea—was anything less than heartfelt, earnest and sincere. I believe he felt compassion for the very people he never wanted to meet at first.
In other words, what he said mattered. What he felt was genuine, real and so true that those who heard him felt who he was and believed in what he was saying.
No one wants to be in the depths of something not so good. No one wants to be in a place that stinks.
But we can find ourselves there. In this place, we can curse God or communicate to God.
That’s another piece that isn’t shared in scripture. What is going on inside Jonah who is inside a fish is not mentioned.
Maybe you don’t mention what is going on inside of you. After all, private is private.
Like Jonah, however, if you are quiet now, perhaps either you can’t speak yet, or it isn’t time to speak yet.
But speak when you can. Share your story. It is yours.
Your words are not Jonah’s. Your message may be slightly different than Jonah’s.
Then, too, maybe your message isn’t so different after all. Jonah speaks what you can speak, which is this. From dark and even scary places, we are not alone. Our God does what our God does in our God’s time, which is deliver us to where, exactly, we need to be.