So this is how it ends…

When you are drowning in the ocean, seeing a large fish coming your way isn’t good news. Maybe Jonah didn’t even know how to swim, but even if he did, he didn’t have a chance of surviving through the storm in the open water. As he sank, holding in his last breath, he sees a huge fish zeroed in on him. Right then he knew. He wasn’t going to die by drowning. He was going to be eaten. Or worse, drown while being eaten.

Jonah wasn’t surprised by the storm. He knew it was his fault. He wasn’t just wavering or questioning God. He was in flat out rebellion. God asked him to do something and Jonah said no. I’m sure he didn’t expect God to just acquiesce and then move on to the next minor prophet. So when the storm raged, he knew it was looking for him.

Maybe you are in rebellion, or maybe your not sure why the storm has arrived, but you know you are about to drown. As John Foreman asks, “Did I get shot or shoot myself?” Life can often be hard to make sense of and sometimes we aren’t sure where to point our finger as we sink to the bottom. And maybe, right now or tomorrow, as you sink deeper into the undercurrent something else is going to come along and bring more pain. As I said, I’m sure Jonah didn’t have high hopes in regards to the fish’s intentions. He probably thought, “So, THIS is how it ends.”

But it didn’t end, did it? Oh, It wasn’t pleasant. He wasn’t saved from the sea by a luxury vessel headed to a beautiful island. Things just didn’t magically turn around.

He was puked up on the beach and the hard work he ran from was still waiting to be done.

So here’s my “the glass is half full AND half empty” dose of reality. If you are drowning right now, your rescue isn’t going to come in the form of the lottery, that dream job or by someone overhearing you joke with your buddy and asking you to come write for Saturday Night Live. Your rescue may look worse than your current predicament. It may leave you water logged, covered in puke and rolled in sand. It will probably leave scars.

But your rescue will be the very thing that you need in order to turn it around. It may not be pretty, but it will work.

We don’t know what happened to Jonah right after he was puked up. I imagine he was disoriented and just started walking in attempt to find his way back. The next scene in his story starts with God speaking to him “a second time.” There is hope in the words, “a second time.” He wasn’t glad to hear God’s voice the first time, but the second time was different.

The fish wasn’t the end. It was his rescue. And while he was literally still in the middle of that situation, Jonah understood it and his heart was changed. Then he was ready to turn around and face life as it was.

Lines in the Sand

In the book Iron John by Robert Bly, he describes a certain man with this observation:

“Unless he has an enemy, he isn’t sure that he is alive.”

Too often, we are defined by our enemies. We are defined by what we are against. When we are defined by what we are against, what we are for gets lost in the noise or, turned into an offensive sound bite. So, what if we were defined by what we are for?

In the song You and Your Heart, Jack Johnson writes,

“You draw so many lines in the sand, lost the fingernails on your hand. “

That’s a brilliant lyric that leaves me asking, “Where did the dirt under my fingernails come from and why is the polish on your index finger chipped?”

There is a famous story from Jesus’ life about the Pharisees, the etch-a-sketchers of moral boundaries, catching a woman in the middle of the act of stepping “out of bounds”. So, they seized the opportunity and decided to continue the pattern of this woman being used by men.  They brought her to Jesus as bait for a trap without any regard for her shame or her life. They were only interested in destroying their political and religious enemy even if that meant killing her in the name of their religion. Sounds amazingly contemporary I think.

But, what does Jesus do when he sees them coming? He draws in the dirt. Why? because he didn’t have a cell phone to pretend he was texting on. To me, his drawing in the dirt is the first century equivalent of looking at your phone when someone is talking to you. His body language screams “I’m just waiting for you to close your mouth!”

When the Pharisees finished pontificating and Jesus stood up and dusted the dirt off of his hands, what did they see in the dirt? A line. They stood on one side and Jesus and the woman caught in adultery stood on the other.

The line defined the Pharisees by what they were against and Jesus by what he was for.