Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, 'Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.' But he answered them, 'An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. -- Matt. 12:38-40
Just before turning to Matthew to read the selection above, the thought crossed my mind that I still need to describe to a friend of mine the Bible Study on Jonah that was given by the pastor at the Grand Canyon Synod Assembly. I know I cannot do justice to that man's storytelling ability and humor, so I have put it off. But now, with this coincidence of Jonah in my mind and today's readings, I will think a little more about Jonah. I know that I cannot recreate that Pastor's insight -- and perhaps I am not meant to.
For I have recently been in the belly of a "sea monster" myself. For the last week and a half, I have been on a cruise ship sailing from Seattle to ports along the Inland Passage of Alaska, and back. And I was forced into an isolation of sorts. I took my laptop, thinking I would keep up with my blogging, but soon found out that a Wi-fi connection would cost me $.69 per minute. Hmmmm. As much as I thought about it, I could not bring myself to pay that amount. Nor did spending a few hours writing at a local hotspot in Juneau or Skagway, instead of spending the time sightseeing with family, seem like a good option.
I was cut off, disconnected. And like Jonah, I underwent something of a transformation.
I left town full of questions more than answers, not sure what to write, unless it was to say that I was full of questions (and not sure if that was a good idea), afraid I would write something I would regret, but feeling pressured to write something. My usual every-two-to-three-days entry had already stretched to a week! Forced to silence my reflections -- though disjointed they might be -- for even longer, was difficult. Wasn't I supposed to be sharing my thoughts? Isn't that what God wanted me to do? Perhaps also people were wondering why I wasn't writing.
It took a while to stop struggling against my disconnection, to stop looking for another way, and accept the silencing of my voice. But once I did (three days before the end of the cruise no less!), a remarkable thing happened. At sea for two days before our last port of call, and with the rest of the family happily entertained, I read what came to me unexpectedly, and I rested. And I found the answers to the questions that had been whirling and twirling in my mind!
I see now that I had been too busy to stop and wait for God's answers, too pressed for time to listen. I had been asking questions, expressing concerns, but not waiting for the answers. For Jonah, being in the belly of the sea monster was a time to return to God with thankfulness, the belly provided a rest from the troubles that crashed over him. (I invite you to read Jonah, chapter 2). So too, I, resting in the cabin of one gigantic cruise ship, was also given time to refocus, re-center. I was given the chance to listen, instead of taking the time to talk.
Perhaps I need to recognize this in the future. Whenever I feel pulled in different directions, at a loss as to what to say but thinking I must say something, or wondering if God is there -- asking questions but not hearing any answers -- then is the time to stop and gather myself in, stop talking, and just listen; to "remember the Lord," as Jonah says.
Dear God, thank you for patiently leading me to where you want me to be. I am truly grateful. Love always, Pam