My little Leighton will be 18 months on April 4th. She is a busy girl. If she is awake she is moving, climbing, opening and closing. She has yet to find interest in the big, colorful rectangle above the gas log fireplace. Not a bad thing! But the mommy in me looks forward to Charlotte’s Web and which movie will be her toddler-hood favorite. Rivers loved Nemo and Leah’s go-to was Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Oops we almost had to “lose” that one).
So this morning I decided to put on the Veggie Tales movie Jonah. It’s been quite a while since Bob and Larry got any screen time and I wondered if the colorful veggies and music would capture her attention. Well, a snack eaten on the couch did seem to encourage interest but after the Cinnamon Toast Crunch was gone so was she.
As I’m chopping onions (sounds so Martha Stewart but don’t get the wrong idea…I love the crock pot for partially selfish reasons. Easy evenings!)I hear Jonah coming to grips with why he finds himself in the belly of a whale.
My Veggie Tales moment comes in a quick flash. I always thought Jonah’s whale-belly experience was either a punishment or a rescue. Maybe it was both. But as I listen along to this so familiar Bible story I see it a bit differently…
God’s desire was that Jonah travel to Nineveh, outside of Israel, and give them a Word of repentance and encouragement. They were a wicked people and the idea of God extending mercy to them really ticked Jonah off.
So in his pride and arrogance Jonah said no and sailed to Tarshish, far from Nineveh.
But look, Jonah was a prophet! God’s messenger to His people. God loved Jonah! I’m thinking this morning that Jonah’s belly time was about so much more than consequence…much more even than rescue from drowning.
Jonah’s experience would give him first-hand revelation of the very thing God wanted him to extend on His behalf.
Jonah soon realized he deserved to be thrown overboard. He knew the rebellion he’d chosen. Jonah quickly came to see his predicament was one of his own making.
Now Jonah needed mercy. And God swiftly provided.
See, we have a very hard time extending mercy and grace when we haven’t recognized our own desperate need for it. We might struggle with compassion if we live with a crowded “my good choices” column. It is never the case that we have no real need ourselves for mercy, grace and compassion. It is most often the case we are blinded by pride.
Here’s why the Bible is amazing. You might think by the end of Jonah’s story he has become a deeply merciful and compassionate man. But even as he obeys God and preaches to the people of Nineveh he still struggles with a bad attitude!
Smile…I love it. Love God. Love the truth of it.
Perhaps three days in the belly of a whale did not completely break Jonah’s pride. Perhaps it was an introductory crash-course on mercy.
I’ve come to see a lot of my life this way. I’ve made choices that at earlier times I judged others for making. I’ve felt the sharp sting of regret. And because of it I’ve experienced the realities of compassion, grace and mercy very personally. Things I once could only talk about as though I understood weaved their way into my character…my perceptions…my experience.
Jonah could not extend to others what he was too proud to himself receive. I relate to Jonah…I think most of us probably can. But see the stories of our lives, like Jonah’s, are not meant to read like a nice and naughty list. Our lives are an epic tale of grace. Of rebellion, rescue and redemption. Of mercy received and given.
Our greatest loss is not in our need for mercy, it is our inability to recognize, receive and then give it away.