Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
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Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
— Jonah 1:1-3
It was starting to run, in my late 40s, a broken marriage and years of alcoholic wreckage behind me, that awoke my sense of God-consciousness. I wanted to run from the pain I was experiencing, but instead of running away I found myself running with a different intent—running towards God. It occurred to me then and stays with me now that we are always either turning away from, or turning towards God. There is not really any middle ground. I had spend most of my life turning away, but running threw me into this new focus, turning towards. Where once I had fear I now had faith. When in fear all I could do was turn away from God, and into self. When in faith the opposite proved true.
Clearly, Jonah at the start of the story that bears his name was in fear. And perhaps with good reason. Nineveh was not a good place. Terrible things happened there, violence, torture, dismemberment. Strangers were not exactly welcomed.1 Jonah had other ideas. When God called—as he did with Amos a few years earlier, and with other prophets since—Jonah did not rise to the occasion. Instead he ran away, hid in a boat heading to gentile territory. Anywhere is better than Nineveh, he must have thought. It was with some struggle and a few trials, and even then not without concern that Jonah summoned enough faith to do God's bidding.
And although I discovered the joy of turning towards there are many times in the course of my life, indeed every day, when I find it easier to turn away, when I am gripped with fear or despair of one kind or another. This shows up in my responses to others, in anger, frustration, quick-temperedness, mistrusting, or in avoiding duties and responsibilities, procrastinating, churning and neglecting. Many times we are called. Sometimes we don't even hear, and those times we hear sometimes we balk. Jonah is just like us. And as we learn through this story, God will always give us more chances to do the right thing.
1 I recommend the insightful book, Sympathy for Jonah by David Benjamin Blower, Resource Publications 2016