Jonah—that bible dude who was swallowed by a whale. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t recall much more about Jonah until I became a scripture teacher. For such a short story, there’s actually a lot more to Jonah than his time with the whale (or big fish). So during our unit on the prophets, I had my freshmen write a short, personal reflection on the prompt: Am I like Jonah?
While there are historical facts within the book of Jonah, it was predominantly written as a clever parable. The main character, Jonah, was called by God be a prophet—to tell the foreign, gentile people of the city of Nineveh (capital of Assyria) to repent or else they and their entire city will be destroyed.
Jonah despises the Assyrians. They are Israel’s enemy. They’re idolatrous. They live immorally. Jonah says “no” to God and travels the other direction. After being thrown overboard into the sea and being swallowed by a giant fish, Jonah eventually apologizes to God.
Jonah finally preaches God’s message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh repents and is saved! But Jonah remains bitter and angry, wishing that God would have let them be destroyed.
At the end of the story, Jonah is comforted one day by a shade tree, but the next day the tree dies and he's being scorched by the sun. He returns to cry-baby mode and complains about his suffering under the blaring sun. God calls out Jonah yet again that he had more concern over a tree (that he didn’t even deserve to receive comfort from in the first place) than he had about a hundred and twenty thousand people who were on the cusp of total destruction and begged God for forgiveness and salvation.
In many ways, Jonah can shed light on similar attitudes within us that might need to be addressed and brought to God. Here was my attempt at a brief reflection:
Am I like Jonah?
Growing up in a town with little diversity, I had to grow to better understand people of different backgrounds. I find that the more challenging people to love, however, are usually the ones closest and most familiar to me. They are the people to whom I am most reluctant to speak the truth, to show concern, and to just be friendly. My conversations even have a tendency to shift into a negative-spirit more often when I’m speaking about friends and family than about strangers or even my "enemies".
And I can be a cry-baby like Jonah, too. I overlook countless generosities and mercies of God each day. I grumble and complain about such trivial matters while overlooking the truly significant struggles of so many others. So, yes I am like Jonah.
God, I repent of my Jonah-ness: my pride, my gossip, my lack of gratitude. Give me the grace to be more like Jesus.
Whether or not you are a biblical person, the book of Jonah can be an eye-opening read. And it will only take about seven minutes...
What about you. Are you like Jonah?