This an observation about the sermon from this morning that coincides with my follow-up blog from Narnian Musings 8.
God sends a great fish to swallow up Jonah. We know that he spends three days and nights (figuratively or literally - you choose) in the belly of the fish. We know for a fact that while he is there, this is the occassion for him to feel his distress and cry out to God.
As I blogged earlier, silence can be an opportunity for the truth to come out. Sometimes the absence of noise allows us to identify falsehoods because when lies are unembellished, they have a kind of hollowness to them, as they hang in the air.
In Jonah, there is a seldom honored spiritual discipline that is talked about by all the great spiritual directors throughout church history. It is this: when surrounded and hemmed in by darkness, and you are distressed in the situation, cry out, but don't run away. Jonah's distress is imposed. His ability to run is taken away by the fish. He must stay in the moment, it is all that he has. Now he can learn the lessons - or at least they are presented to him. We know in Jonah's case nothing much sinks in.
I mentioned that the story of Jonah saves us from a dangerous duality. We often identify difficulties in life as always being associated with evil and that all the pleasant and what we call good times are God's realm. But this is unhealthy. For one it doesn't square up with our experience or the biblical witness. For another, it tries says that there may well be places where God will not, or cannot go. This creates quite a problem when we are dealing with an infinite God. We've gone and made this God quite finite when we do this.
I think it happens because we so much want relief and deliverance from our distress. We know Lewis calls pain - God's megaphone. Trying to get our attention simply in the natural course of life's events. But what God wants from us is a great gift - trust. When we learn to trust in God, to go his route, to walk in his ways, to receive our life from him, then we can face more than the three days in the belly of a great fish.
It may well be that it is in that belly God is gifting us for living on dry land.
So what's the discipline. We must stop trying to escape the uncomfortable distressing moments of our lives by moving through them too quickly or avoiding them all together. (Do you see the words used in the sentence: escape, avoidance - we know these are unhealthy psychological responses that have negative consequences.) While Jonah tried to escape and avoid, it lead to greater distress.
The fish is Jonah's silence, oddly enough it is also his place of light. At least a little bit. It is the place he learns to cry out to the Lord. May our own fish stories cause us to cry out to the Lord. For with him "there is great power to redeem." (from Psalm 130)