Posts Tagged ‘Jonah’


The Jonah Effect is an earlier post reflecting on the minor prophet Jonah, and his story. Not just re-sharing that shows to one that you can come back to sacred stories and more than one reflection can grow out of it, as well depending on the time and moment in your life they can speak differently. Same is said of Jonah, and anomaly in that it is a nouwen quotestory of a snap shot in the life of the prophet. A prophet called by God to go to the enemy Assyria’s capital city of Nineveh, and offer them not destruction but a chance to change direction. The same choice that Israel kept getting through the prophetic voices of the 12.

Jonah’s life becomes the prophetic message of transformation and hope. Of not getting lost in one’s own anger and denial, but in hearing clearly what God is whispering to screaming into our heart. Where Nineveh brings up the communal trauma, anger and hatred that the nation lived (1:2); it was Jonah’s refusal to see beyond his own anger and fear (hearing anything, about our own communal and institutional transformations? Changes? Personal and corporate callings?).

He charted a boat to escape, and as noted in the Jonah Effect, the storm so scared the sailors, they cast him over to which:

[a] And the Lord appointed[b] a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice.

-Jonah 1:17-2:2 (English Standard Version)

Jonah wasn’t getting the hint. The change afoot. God saved him from Sheol, the warehouse of the souls that have gone before regardless of being righteous or unrighteous, simply a place of darkness. Out of this Jonah says God hears him. Out of the darkness of Jonah’s own soul, out of the hatred, fear, anger and denial in his grief cycle-change cycle of his own life? The life of his nation? Understanding more deeply, the Shema?

This time in the belly of the beast is an allegory used for the death time of Jesus in the tomb in the Christian testament. It is a time of rebirth and resurrection, not simply a retreat. The kernels of new life were laid, for the communal understanding. Not just  one man in a fish. Vomited freshly onto dry land.

jonah

And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.-Jonah 2:10 (ESV)

But even on dry land he was still struggling with his anger, and change. Jonah was outside the city gates with the tree, and a worm was sent to whither it to get Jonah back on track. Continuing to strip away what Jonah understood as blessing in the new world changing before him. Jonah’s anger has so consumed him again when he let it so consume him that, well…

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

-Jonah 4:8-11 (ESV)

Think beyond yourself. Think beyond your anger. The bush became a metaphor for what the anger was doing to Jonah’s soul, given time to resurrect, and still he let it consume him. How hard, once released, is it to exorcise the cancer of anger from our souls? The writer, like with good fantasy and science fiction, uses hyperbole, brings elements of the world and creation (political and environmental) into play to create the interior conflict within the lead character, so that by the end, in good rabbi tradition, the transformation is left to the reader to experience with the deep Star Trekkian question, where should our pity lie?

Or to flip it,

Where should our love and hope root and grow?

Are we ready for the journey from fish to heart of the sacred?


Story of Jonah

Jonah is the story of a minor prophet in the Hebrew Bible. He is minor because the story is short, not because it is inconsequential. It is the story of a man given a mission that does not want to do it. Many will take the tact of the journey of coming into your own within your chosen vocation. As Jonah is called to take a message of salvation to the non-Israelite city of Nineveh.

But there is another tract of the story, that is rarely mentioned in spiritual circles. Michael A. Martin in his 2011 Star Trek Enterprise Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings touched on it. The Jonah curse he would write about, it was what Captain Archer was feeling after a previous encounter that the freighter, Kobayashi Maru and all hands were lost, the Enterprise needing to save themselves turning away and fleeing. It was due to a Romulan control weapon that took over allies ships to do the deed. It was a logical decision, and a hard one. The flood of transfer requests after left the Captain reflecting on Jonah, and the curse that many spacefarers and nautalists too, would focus on. It is in the first chapter, when Jonah first flees the call:

 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Image result for jonah and the whale13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

-Jonah 1:1-16 (New International Version)

A ship in danger. The only way to end it, is to get rid of the cursed one. Fairly clear cut, but why is this so necessary a story in the spiritual journey?

It is an effect we see on dry land many times. The shunning, the avoidance. It can happen when one leaves your spiritual community. It is more prevalent however when one receives a diagnosis in mental health or physical health that can be chronic, long, enduring, or stigmatized this is an effect that takes hold of some. The length of time as family or friends does not matter, for it becomes a subconscious response of distancing.

It is the Jonah Effect as I have decided to dub it. That is a fear that if you continue the relationship with the person afflicted, or whose life is changing, that you will somehow become susceptible to what they have. That you will become associated with the diagnosis. The very act of shunning/distancing/relationship breaking you are employing due to stigma is the fear of it happening to you is what drives it.

The Jonah Effect…