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In the belly of the whale

Recently I re-read the story of Jonah in the Bible. (Yes, I am aware that the Bible uses the word 'fish' rather than whale but I'm going for a catchy title. No, I'm not interested in arguing whether it literally happened or not). For those who are unfamiliar with the story it concerns a prophet Jonah who is commanded by God to preach his message in Nineveh. Jonah doesn't like this idea as he has some rather prejudiced views about the Ninevites so he gets on a ship going in a completely different direction to Tarshish (Spain?). A storm arises due to God's displeasure and Jonah ends up overboard and in the belly of said giant fish. In the belly of the whale, Jonah after 3 days cries out to God and is duly vomited up on the shore and heads for Nineveh to do what he should have done in the first place.


As I read the story the parallels with our situation in Lock-down stuck me. Our journey in life has been very much interrupted and that may give the opportunity for reflection and possibly redirection. There are times when we are going the wrong way in life or at least in aspects of our life. It may be our career, a relationship, or a habit. We are on a boat to Tarshish either by intentional choice or more likely we are drifting and carried along by the busyness of life. Then suddenly our normality has been interrupted and, in less than pleasant circumstances, we find we have a little more time to ponder as work may have gone quieter or the places we used to go are now closed.


For a person of faith, this is probably a pretty good time to cry out to God, to focus on our spiritual health and seek his direction. Whether you are a person of faith or not, it's an opportunity to be still and reflect. Ask yourself what am I learning during this time? A return to something that looks a bit more like normal is coming but what parts of normal will we return to? What will be different? Are there some areas of my life where I have been going the wrong way or just drifting? As we spend these final days or weeks - or however long - living with restrictions albeit fewer than they were, I find these are some of the questions I am asking myself. I don't necessarily have the answers yet but I'm sure they will come.


We are about to find ourselves on the beach free from the darkness and the stench of fish guts. What then? How will we put into practice what we have learned? If we go back to absolutely everything we did before, then perhaps the time in the belly of the whale has been wasted. And wouldn't it be a real shame to lose most of the year and learn nothing in the process.

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