One day long ago, God's Word came to Jonah, Amittai's son: "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer." But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish.
Jonah 1:1-3 (The Message)
Back in the beginning of the year, my friend Katrina sent me on a spiritual journey. At the time, I admitted that her expectations brought out the Jonah in me. Called to Nineveh, I wanted to go instead to Tarshish.
I'm in a Jonah kind of mood right now. (Or a Moses mood, who after offering up excuse after excuse to God as to why he, Moses, should not ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, finally blurted "Send somebody else!")
Ever since Katrina sent me off on my journey, I have come to view my beliefs and my spirituality in far more personal, real ways. So why am I kicking my heels right now?
Blame it on Michelle Derusha.
Michelle is the blogger at Graceful, a deftly and beautifully written blog about her life, her faith, and her own journeys. One of the journeys Michelle is on presently is a "shop-not" year.
Shop-not years always intrigue me and I read Michelle's explanation of why she had made that decision. She pointed to a book, The Hole In Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. What Michelle wrote about that book was intriguing, intriguing enough to track down the book and start reading it last night.
Start reading it? Start absorbing it. Start inhaling it. Start immersing myself in it. It is a powerful book. It is a book that reaches right into my heart and pulls hard.
This is how hard that book has hit me: When I find a quote that moves me, I usually flag it until I can come back to it and copy it into my commonplace book. I am not yet finished with The Hole in Our Gospel and there are so many notes sticking out of it that it looks as if someone shoved a ream of construction paper into the pages.
The Hole in Our Gospel is a book that even when I manage to put it down and turn to the tasks at hand, I am still thinking about the book.
And this is where Jonah comes in. Sundays are my swimming day many weeks, this week being one of them. As I swam earlier today, counting laps, I found myself thinking of the book, and the book's message, and what that message could, might, maybe mean for me. I found myself praying as I counted laps: 3-4, 3-5, What are You asking of me, Lord?, 3-6, 4-1, What am I supposed to do?, 4-2, 4-3, Not now, please, Lord, not now.
As I type these words, it is midafternoon Sunday. Sam and a friend are in the next room, gaming. Warren is in his shop (the garage) cutting steel. Me? I'm wondering whether to go to Nineveh or Tarshish, and I haven't even finished the book yet.
In the end, Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches repentance (so successfully that God spared the city, to Jonah's great anger and disgust). As for me, I suspect in the end I will trudge into my own version of Nineveh, where I will find…
Myself, talking about but not taking action, wondering about but not questing after a more meaningful expression of my faith. My Nineveh is not populated by evildoers so wicked the town is about to be destroyed, but just by me, who I hope is a fairly decent person. But as Stearns make clear in his book, the issue is not whether one is fairly decent or well meaning or a "good Christian." The issue is far greater than that: it is about living with integrity and compassion and justice for the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick, the hungriest of the hungry. It is about the meaning of life itself.
Sooner or later, I hope to end up in Nineveh.