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Fish and Storms

Shane Willard

Page 4 of 10
So in the Book of Jonah, God listens and responds to the desperate cry, of desperate people, who are in desperate circumstances of their own creation. How nice is God? He listens to the desperate cry, of desperate people, in desperate circumstances of their own creation, that's how nice He is. This is something we miss about God. We think that there's no way we could come back to Him, given how we've treated Him and ourself; but in the Book of Jonah, as well as the rest of the Bible, there's a constant invitation: come back, return, repent.

Repent and return are the same exact word. Return, repent, come back; there's a better way to live, no matter how far down this road you've gone. There's a better way to do things. Some observations about storms and fish:

1) unexpected crisis in our lives reveal who we really are. This is a conclusion to the story of a man who was going to the end of a trade route of the day. It would have taken him a year. He had options. He had money. In Jewish history, he had means; so here's a man with means, money, some sort of power, a bit of a name, and God tells him to do something. He says: I want you to deal with this. I want you to deal with this darkness. You don't have to fix it; just go there and name it. He says: I'm not going to do that. The word Jaffa means beauty. The word Tarshish means wealth. Jonah ran from what God told him to deal with, in a pursuit of beauty and wealth.

He had options, but in the belly of the fish there were no options. He ends up in the belly of a boat, and then gets thrown into the belly of the ocean, and ends up in the belly of a fish - this does not turn out well. In the belly of the fish, Jonah doesn't have wealth, or at least it doesn't matter. He doesn't have prestige, at least it doesn't matter. He doesn't have a name. In the belly of the fish, in Jonah's case, the storm and the fish drove Jonah to a place where it was just him and God; and that forced him to deal with things about who he really was. It forced him to stick in there, and forced him to answer hard questions. Storms reveal the real you.

2) Storms also change the perspective of the value of things. Storms, fish - they change your perspective on the value of things. The Rabbis teach that all of us can find ourself in the Book of Jonah and isn't that true? Have you ever gone through something that, after you got through it, what you thought was important before, actually wasn't that important any more? A good friend of mine was here this weekend, and he just came through throat cancer, and he's completely clean and in full remission. He had stage four throat cancer. He couldn't speak for 18 months. Part of the treatment for the throat cancer is: he has no saliva for the rest of his life; so right now all of you can draw saliva up into your mouth. If I was to say: I want you to picture a nice lamb shank, with good mushroom gravy, and maybe some lamb, mint sauce - you can draw that into your mouth. We take it for granted, because we've had it our whole life, until it's stripped away from you. We were talking about it, and he said: when I was in that hospital bed in the Gold Coast, and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not, all kinds of things came into perspective that weren't there any more. I used to think this was important, and now I'm realising it's not important at all. So in one sense, unexpected crisis can force us to deal with who we really are. In another sense, unexpected crisis actually re-values things in our life, and sometimes we need that to happen.