Yesterday we left Jonah in a whale belly time out. I'm pretty sure that is not where he expected to find himself when he willfully disobeyed God's assignment. Talk about the depths of despair. His shipmates had thrown him overboard and he had disappeared from sight. At first it must have seemed like no one knew where he was or cared. But God knew, the divine Love that had provided rescue knew. Now what?
Jonah did what he should have done before he ran away, what he should have done when he was on the ship, what he should have done when he awoke to a raging storm. He prayed. He opened up his end of the communication with God. He called out to his Father as he appeared to be drowning in a big problem, needing somehow to be rescued. It says that his soul fainted within him as he faced the consequences of his actions. But, like the prodigal son in Jesus' parable, he came to himself and found he wanted to go back to his Father. That sincere prayer was heard. Now he vows to do whatever God ask of him. I love what happens next, God speaks to the fish. You have to wonder what the fish was thinking about all this. It obeys and vomits Jonah out onto dry land. In a way, it is another parting of the sea so someone can go over on dry land.
Whenever this story is part of our Bible Lesson I look up several articles from past issues of the Sentinel. One is entitled There's a whale waiting by Jeffrey Hildner. (August 6, 2001) He points out that if God prepared something, it must have been good. What a comfort to know that even in the midst of the worst storms of our making God is preparing something good to help us. The whale experience was a time for Jonah to see his true spiritual identity. This is the coming of the Christ to save us when we are ready to listen. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (S&H p.332).
There's another article that mentions a whale. It's called The Whale in the Pail, an article written for children by R.Louise Emery (August 8, 1970 Sentinel). She tells about a vaudeville act where a hypnotist called for a volunteer from the audience and put him under a spell. He seated him, handed him a fishing pole, and put a pail in front of him. When he put the hook into the water the hypnotist told him a whale had swallowed the hook and ordered him to pull it out. The man struggled long and hard to try to get that whale out of the pail while the audience howled with laughter. When the man was awakened, he wondered how he ever could have believed there was a whale in the pail.
It seems pretty foolish but we sometimes let ourselves get caught up in the suggestion that we are facing a huge problem, something way too big for us to overcome, no matter how hard we try. In Christian Science we learn that God does not create problems to test us and then sit back and watch us struggle. The answer is not to get the whale out, all you need to do is wake up and see that it was never real in the first place. The Bible explains clearly that God made all that was made and that it was very good. He is the only cause and creator and good is the only effect. If God didn't make it or cause it, it can't be any more real than the whale in the pail. We just wake up to understand that God is All-in-all, filling all space with good, present at all times and under all circumstances. Even when we feel alone in a deep dark place.
Jonah prayed. He turned to God with humility and repentance, with a willingness to go where God wanted him to go and to do what God asked him to do. He purified his thoughts and actions. There's that word 'pure' showing up in the citations again. Psalms 119:140 - Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. Mrs. Eddy writes "Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march toward righteousness, peace, purity, which are the landmarks of Science." (S&H p.323) That is what Jonah would be needing, a landmark. This was a landmark experience for him, just as it can be for us.
Righteousness is right-thinking, Truth-knowing. That is where we want our thought to be, at one with God. There's more to Jonah's story. I'll be thinking about those whales today and am looking forward to more insights now that Jonah is back on dry land.