Not really down for the count

2012-10-10_13-31-40_108I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and it feels like it might be helpful to someone, so I'm going to post it.

A friend of mine found this excellent icon to the left a few months ago at this store, and I knew I had to have it. The image is of Jonah and the Whale. If you don't know the story of Jonah and the Whale, it's a story from the book of Jonah (surprise) in the Bible. In the story God asks Jonah to do something for him, and Jonah doesn't, and instead runs away from God. He hides out on a boat, but God sends a crazy storm that overwhelms the boat, and the crew of the boat end up tossing Jonah into the water to try to save themselves. Jonah is swallowed by a whale, and sits in the whale's stomach for three days praying to be given a second chance. The whale vomits him up, and Jonah does what God asks him to.

I was never particularly interested in this story before (although I did have the lead role in the musical "Jonah-man Jazz" in fourth grade in Lutheran school), but when I saw this icon I was struck. First of all because of how scary the whale is. Look at those teeth! It looks more like a sea monster than a plain old whale to me. And look at the malice in its eye. I'm pretty sure that's a misrepresentation of Jonah's mood as he was swallowed by the creature.

What I was really struck by, though, is the idea that you can think everything is seriously over, and God (or the universe or whatever you envision is happening behind the scenes) will still bail you out of it. It wasn't that Jonah was afraid of being eaten by a sea monster–Jonah WAS EATEN by a sea monster. And God still got him out of it. When I think of the number of times I was actually IN the belly of the whale and still had my scared, sorry ass saved, it made me realize that I need to have a whole different perspective on worst-case scenarios.

There's a song by one of my favorites, Fred Hammond*, that has the lyric "Late in the midnight hour/God's going to work in your favor" and that "late in the midnight hour" part means a lot to me. (It's here at 2:55 in this video.)  I don't usually want things to get as bad as they do, but God still pulls it out at the last minute.

It's not over 'til it's really over. And sometimes, even if it's over, there's another way out. Even when the sea monster has some scary teeth.




* Fred Hammond's album "Free to Worship" pulled me through my divorce. If you're a Christian or Christian-curious going through a divorce I highly, highly recommed the whole album for some perspective and grace. It was the only thing I could listen to some days, and a year later I found out that it was the album Hammond was working on while he went through a divorce himself.

23 thoughts on “Not really down for the count”

  1. Uncannily timely. A dear friend’s 1-year-old is on life support after a terrible car crash and isn’t expected to make it. She doesn’t believe in God but feels punished anyway. I know God (or the universe or whatever she wants to think) can pull her out of it to a new life of some sort if she allows it. But that’s the important variable, isn’t it?

  2. Thank you for giving me something to really sink my mind-teeth into last night while I was up with my six week old! This actually really helped tie together a number of thoughts that have been floating around my brain lately. It really got me thinking about the power and wonder of grace. Jonah was saved not because he was deserving, or perhaps even in spite of the fact that he may not have been. And that turned his life around and spurred him to make the right choices going forward. Beautiful.

  3. I’ve never forgotten the definition I once heard of the word courage: Courage is not the absence of fear but the belief that God will help you face it. Your post illustrates that definition beautifully.

  4. Jonah actually didn’t make the right choice going forward, even AFTER being spit out alive from the belly of a whale. He made the wrong choice, by asking God not to forgive the people of Ninveh after they repented. It took a little kikayon-tree to teach him the lesson that he needed to hear to accept a God who forgives. Great story! And it’s true–it isn’t over as long as you’re kicking. Even if you find yourself in the belly of a whale.

  5. You know, the book of Jonah is worth a read because Jonah is such an asshole. At every turn, a jerk. And it ends with him telling God, “I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” No happy conversion or Aha! moment. It’s just a story about a dude who’s Life asks him to do what he cannot and when he finally does it because Life makes him, it gets done but it gets done with a dark heart and ends in anger.Life is often shitty and rescue comes but it doesn’t always bring happy, clappy, jump on the couch endings. The friends who’s son is dying will be rescued no matter what she does and she may well (and should) shake her fist at the heavens and say “I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” And those who love her will sit next to her with their mouths shut, shaking their own fists at the heavens and wait for Life to keep going. Because that’s all there is. The next morning.
    I love this post and Jonah and Moxie because I love being reminded that God has plans for assholes like me and doesn’t quit even when I do.

  6. I, too, was in “Jonah-Man Jazz,” though I had repressed the title until now. I can still sing the immortal lines “Ninevah City was a city of sin; the jazzin’ and the jivin’ made a terrible din.” Ah, the 70s.

  7. I love Jonah. He’s such a whiner. And there’s that great line at the end where God says that yes, he cares for Ninevah, where there are all these people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many cattle. It’s the “and also many cattle” part that always, always gets me.

  8. Thank you for this post. Right now my mom’s ALS is the scary sea monster whale for my whole family. It is so hard to wrap my head around the hopelessness of the diagnosis. It’s hard to even know what to pray or wish for. I am usually an optimist but this is really hard… Hoping for some whale vomit…

  9. I’m having an inside-the-whale season right now too. You just reminded me of a song on one of my kids’ CDs. I’m not the “Christian music” type, but someone gave us this CD and I really like it. The band is called Butterflyfish. Here are the lyrics.Jonah was a man
    He used to run away again and again
    He sailed across the sea
    And yet he ended up just gettin’ wet
    And now he knows that
    There’s one thing you can’t do
    It’s run away from love
    Love’s in every way
    And if there’s one thing you can do
    It’s live like love is here to stay
    Every day
    That’s what Jonah learned inside the whale
    He learned that whales have no teeth
    But they do have great big tongues
    And God is underneath
    Everything and everyone
    That’s what Jonah learned inside the whale
    And that ain’t just one heck of a fish tale
    It’s testimony that love will never fail
    Even down inside a whale

  10. @ACJ – Thank you for your beautiful comment. “Because that’s all there is. The next morning.” AMEN. Friends of the grieving need to know this, and not look for the silver lining or what good will come of it or how to comfort her. There is no comfort. Just sitting and facing the next morning together.

  11. It felt like it was really over for us, long story, but we have been vomited out into some HUGE blessings. Felt like the worst case happened. Felt like nothing would ever be good again. We are still in it, but are now working from a home base that is a beautiful 3-bedroom, rent free house, instead of a camper in my MIL’s yard. Too much to say here but I got chills when I read this post. Thank you so much. Things will never be the same again… but will be good and even better than before. Ugh I can’t seem to write very eloquently today.

  12. I agree with others that the main point of the story is not Jonah’s second chance (vivid as the fish imagery is) but the second chance that Nineveh gets. Even though Jonah wants God to strike them all dead, even after the second chance he got himself! And ACJ is right, Jonah never has that moment where he understands about forgiveness. It doesn’t matter. God does, he understands for the rest of us, Jonah and Ninevites and assholes and all.

  13. Actually the crew of the ship tried to save Jonah first, but finally he told them to throw him overboard. They had a lot more mercy and compassion than Jonah did.

  14. I just cannot get on board with your comenmts Armen. I would go as far as to say that I am puzzled by them.First, Jesus was into stories in a big way. When he wanted to make a point he told a story, we know them as parables. Having told the story he would then often back this up with some words to illustrate the meaning. This seems to me to be no different from showing a video clip as part of a sermon.Second, obviously the bible does not mention the use of video clips, because they were not invented. The bible also does not mention the discussion of the practice of preaching on the internet. However, it seems that none of us considers it to be sinful or wrong! If I understand you correctly, the principle that you propose is that only methods of communication used and understood by 1st century people can be used, since this is all they would have been able to write about. The issue that I have with this approach is that it would lead us to some clearly unhelpful and misguided conclusions elsewhere.Third, don’t think that just becuase you are quoting scripture you cannot be crazy. The devil quotes scripture to Jesus in the wilderness. In the past many people have used scripture to abuse and mislead many. It really comes down to interpretation. The question that I would like to ask of Romans 10:17 is this: What was the point Paul was trying to make here? Do we honestly beleive that he was wanting to make the point that faith can only come as the result of hearing and not some other medium? If we do beleive that then naturally all deaf people are consigned to hell, since they can never hear the message. However, maybe we could see sign language as a valied way of communicating the good news to a deaf person. In that case, we recognise the validity of a visual medium. Reading the context of that passage it is clear that what is in view is the communication and reception of the message and not the audio nature of that meeage.

  15. Armen,We are reading the same chpaetr and it speaks of the power of the gospel and the need to communicate it. But we read the whole bible where there are loads of examples of visual communication. God himself uses fire and clouds in the OT to indicate his presence. He even uses silence to speak to Elijah. Every week we are reminded of all God’s promises through visual symbols of invisible grace. God has not communicated in history exclusively by spoken word only. People have even cometh to faith simply by reading the bible in their own language too, without any preacher.Nobody is saying that we don’t believe in preaching anymore. I think our main problem Armen, is how you construct your arguments reading the bible this way. To read the text in black and white without thought for historical or contemporary context, ignoring common experience and the rest of the bible gets you in all sorts of trouble.Since Jesus did use nature to make deeper truths, easier to understand . This is precisely what we are saying. Our task is to make things understandable and in our modern culture showing the odd video clip can be one way in which we make a point clearer. Admittedly our illustrations spoken or visual actually sometimes can do the opposite.The need is for clear communication of the message and it is the Holy Spirit that makes your people listen and induces faith, not the preacher, anoitned or otherwise, whether you are in the pulpit or not ( if I use your way of reading the bible I shouldn’t be in a pulpit because nowhere in my bible does it tell me that the place to preach is in a pulpit).And while we are on the subject of communication. It helps to use the language of the people too and not seventeenth century English. People died for the right to use the common language of the people to communicate the message of the bible. Cometh is not a word in the vocabulary of people who live here and probably isn’t where you live either. My google spell checker even underlines words like that.How will they hear if they don’t understand what you are saying?

  16. If you can reveal the glory of Christ and His cross work with Power Point or stihoemng else, without creating an idolitrous and popish image of Christ that God condemns, and can defend such practices in the word of God then that’s up to you.If you can’t see God’s desire for His instruments just to preach Christ, then I’m at a loss. Did Peter have images on the day of Pentecost? Did Paul have them when preaching to the Athenians? Do people with images see people understanding the gospel more than they did?I think you’ll find Ezra preaching in a pulpit by the way.And until a Bible comes out that is as accurate (I’m not saying it’s perfect) as the Authorised Version, then I’ll continue to use it, and continue to see people saved when it’s preached. I don’t know what your intelligence level is, but the children I teach from ungodly homes understand the vocabulary of the Authorised Version as much as they would any other version.As I side note, I recommend you tune into the Ligonier National Conference Live Webcast on at the moment, featuring John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and others.

  17. Tim, I really think you’re ovirreacteng. Spending all day I made one comment and then I replied, how is that all day ? crazy comments I think this is a little harsh, especially as I was quoting scripture. Do you not like scripture Tim?Romans 10:17 is stating a rule. There are exceptions to the rule, such as what you have mentioned, deaf people. But like I say, these are exceptions, the general rule is faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God You can’t rewrite the rule just because of a few exceptions you can think of. God can (and has) use any means to draw people to Christ, but the general rule is that by the foolishness of preaching, He will save souls.

  18. I love this post!!! I love the picture and the rednmier of what we’re left here to do. Follow Him (our Savior) and fish as we go.And tonight I wondered while reading this post how apt we are to fish for the fish we want to catch; but wondered if we don’t sometimes fail to fish for the fish that we don’t especially care for or simply don’t have time for . or we don’t fish for some because some are harder than others and ask for too much and take too much time? I don’t know. It’s just a wonder. Jesus told His disciples where to fish. I just want to be willing and obedient enough to fish where He wants me to and where I’m told.Saved to serve my Savior so seeking to do so,sharon

  19. Billy shouldn’t take it peoslnalry, but it sure does make for a funny post and pic. Your copy of Moby looks quite daunting. Mine doesn’t look nearly as dense but I checked and it’s not abridged or anything. That would be a hoot. I read the abridged and you all read the full version. In my dreams..-= Tib4s last blog .. =-.

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