Thankful for the Whale

“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”  Jonah 1:17

Many of you are familiar with this story.  Jonah had received a word from the Lord but refused to obey.  God wanted to use Jonah to save a people that Jonah was less than enthusiastic about visiting and helping escape God’s wrath.  He literally bought a boat ticket out of town, going in the opposite direction.  Not one to let His people out of His grasp, God sent a wind to fall upon the seas and Jonah knew it was to get his attention.  Jonah got the sailors to toss him into the waves and the storm ceased.

The drama was just beginning for Jonah.

It says God sent that wind but then He sent a fish to swallow Jonah.

I read this the other night and I thought to myself, was Jonah like: “oh whew!  I almost drowned.  Good thing this fish came along, opened up its giant jaws and sucked me in like dessert!  I am so blessed!”

The following chapter in the book of Jonah almost makes it seem as if he did sing out. (I wonder if the acoustics in the belly were amazing – all that water, a round, reverberating dome…).  It tells us Jonah was feeling as if he were drowning and thankfully, God saved him.

However, I’m not sure which of the 3 days inside that belly this praise song hit its first note.

If I had been Jonah, which actually I think I am in SO MANY WAYS, I wouldn’t have gone with the grateful attitude.

I’d have been more like: DUDE! Ick.  Slimy, stupid fish!  I am a HUMAN.  You don’t eat humans!  You are supposed to eat seaweed, or I don’t know – other FISH.

Or maybe I’d thought: great.  Death by fish.  Really?! What an awful way to die!

Or maybe the scientist in me would come out: I didn’t think there were really fish this big who could actually swallow a person.  I wonder what happens next?  Like will the stomach acids slowly break me down into fish pellets?

Well, Jonah and I will be neighbors in heaven.  Just like Jonah I have felt numerous times as though God has sent me to my least favorite people: little ones.  When I had a barely 1 year old and an unpotty trained almost 3 year old, I felt like I lived the life of a prophet like Jonah.  I didn’t want to go where God was sending me.  If I could have bought a ticket in the opposite direction (say, order college students instead of babies), I would have.

Jonah had been called to a people he obviously didn’t want to help and he ended up headfirst in the seas, drowning.  “Luckily” for him, the big-mouth was sent and the FISH obeyed.  The fish went where he was supposed to, in order to save one guy who hadn’t.

I am now with a third kid and know God is sending me… well, nowhere actually.  Instead of going, I am called STAY: to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) that is.  It is not my idea of God really saving me, using me (enough) and having a good plan for my life.

I feel most days as if I too have been swallowed by some huge whale.  The whale called “kids don’t need to be running around today so let’s just stay home and play Legos.”  The whale called “stay at the playground another 30 minutes because they are having fun and you don’t really need to move on to the next thing.”  The whale called “find that Lego piece in the bucket which is really the Bermuda Triangle instead of doing the dishes piled in the sink.”  Or the whale called “don’t go for your regular, favorite, fast-paced, high calorie burning YMCA class because the kids really, REALLY, really do not want to go anywhere today before 11:00am.”

No top front teeth, now missing another on bottom.  Needless to say, corn on the cob is no fun this summer.

No top front teeth, now missing another on bottom. Needless to say, corn on the cob is no fun this summer.

boys on pontton

Boys at the cabin, “driving” the pontoon.

The whale and I are not friends yet.

The smell, the sitting still, the water sloshing, the unknown things floating around me, the obvious seasickness and the darkness would have just done this girl in.  I cannot imagine those 3 days Jonah endured inside the belly.

He was stuck.  In the dark.  Out of control.

Not my idea of a 3 day vacation.

I cannot imagine how he came to the place where he actually said,

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:8-9)

Did you catch the GRATEFUL PRAISE part?

I read all kinds of blogs, articles and Facebook posts of moms (and some of you dads even!) who post pictures of their messy kids, sleeping babies or family hiking trips and just briefly, but passionately express their gratitude with this season of life.  There are those precious moms and babes, dads and baseball stars and families beaming into the camera (probably on their phones) and the simple words “my heart.”

Friends, I am just not there very often.

Oh I’d like to be.  Peaceful activity of raising 3 children who are never quiet, even while falling asleep (Elam kicks and has fits of 5 year old “boy” and Calista takes at least 30-45 minutes of thrashing complaining and sighing before giving up for sleep).  Smiling serenity while 3 kids invent new ways to argue in our narrow bathroom while “brushing teeth.”  Tonight Elam came out after 3 minutes with his sister in the bathroom with scratch marks covering his chest.

Seriously I can’t even fake it for a paragraph of dreaming of peaceful parenting, blissfully grateful for these balls of energy…

I just am not there praising in the belly.

But some glorious day I may embrace the whale…Sigh.

But darn it, when Jonah did do you know what happened next?

Verse 10, immediately following Jonah’s prayer, it says, AND I QUOTE:

 “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

BLECH! EW. VOMIT people.

Any parent knows what it is like to be covered in their own child’s vomit.  Just imagine now it’s a big fish and the vomit that has been spewed has been your bed, footrest and shampoo for the last 3 days.

People: I love that God does this to Jonah.  I really do.  First a fish saves his sorry butt then He rescues him from said fish through hurling him, literally, onto a beach.

That dry land must have felt ah-mazing to Jonah.  The sunshine, grass under his feet and the fresh air.

The vomit, not so much.

You can’t make this stuff up people.  If someone made up the story of Jonah, they did a rip-roaring job.

Until you consider that God may just have a plan.

Can we find Him even in the belly of a dark fish?  How about a pile of vomit?

What if that whale is just what I am to be thankful for?  And that vomit may just be salvation for me?

These kids may be the death of me, IF I let them.  They may also point the way to salvation.

Hopefully someday I will be thankful for this whale.  And the vomit.

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