“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry…yet I will look again toward your holy temple. The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down…But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you…Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you…And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” Jonah 2:1-10.
I couldn’t help but to think of my mother this morning when I chose this passage. Every time I began to stop with one verse the subsequent verses also pulled at my heart. This passage is so tender to me because it exemplifies the manner in which my mother walked out the darkest night of her soul – saying goodbye to her 42 year old little girl and my dad, her love for over 50 years all within twelve months. A few months after Daddy died she turned to me and said how grateful she was to God that He took Beth first. She went on to explain that her blessing was that she didn’t have to face the loss of a child alone. She and Daddy leaned on each other and walked their difficult journey hand in hand. This is my Jonah and the Whale story. While in the belly of darkness she was able to praise God much like Jonah. She knew that her circumstances could have allowed her to cling to worthless idols…anger…bitterness…isolation…but to do that she would have forfeited His healing grace. So like Jonah she clung to God instead of her emotions.
While researching, I found this excerpt from a sermon which so closely resembled my mother I couldn’t determine if he was speaking about Jonah or her. ‘Inside the whale, Jonah the Prophet blessed the Lord. He called upon the Lord in his affliction. Jonah did not demonstrate fear nor are we told he appeared troubled. Jonah in his wisdom knew the Lord created this great fish that consumed him. He knew the great fish's life and direction were both guided by the Lord. Jonah inside this fish's belly was most probably in darkness…He was most probably tossed about constantly...As Jonah underwent all of these perils within the fish we are not told of anything negative he said against the Lord.’ Bishop Youssef - Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States.
I will forever be inspired and humbled by the faithfulness and extraordinary example my mother showed me during her season of deepest despair. It is sometimes staggering to know that my children are still watching my spiritual responses to adversity. We must pattern those who pattern God in love, faith and forgiveness if we expect those in our sphere of influence to do the same. I know for myself I have some big high heels to fill!
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