Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt
Read Jonah 4:1-11
And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
More thoughts for meditation
For all of his adventures, Jonah seems no more a changed man at the end then at the beginning. He accomplished the task given to him, but rather reluctantly. He still seems woefully resistant to understand that grace is a mystery that befuddles our ideas of right and wrong and especially our idea of “deserving.” It is not something that is understood so much as a visitor to whom the door is opened; not so much a puzzle to be figured out as a wind that catches our sail.
I like Jonah for all of his half-heartedness, and I feel like him in my own half-heartedness. Perhaps you do as well. Haven’t we been saved? Haven’t we witnessed miracles? Haven’t we had, at moments anyway, words of power and grace to give to others? And yet, do we not run away instead of sallying forth? Do we not find ourselves sitting at the edge of the cliff, instead of letting ourselves be borne aloft by God’s breath to strange new countries? Can we not hear the worm chewing away at our core? Are we not filled with resentment? Do we not feel ourselves beaten down by the hot sun? We sleep when we should be awake. We bear our cross by necessity and compulsion, instead of by choice and resolve. And yet, it is the half-hearted saint that Jesus points to and says, “This one! He is the one who came closest to understanding. It is the fool Jonah who preached to save the cattle, and not the great king David who is my fore-runner.” David was a great musician; Jonah’s tune was sung rather off-key. But Jonah’s was the tune that was most recognizable to God, who speaks the language of whales and cares about the cows of Nineveh.
Jonah did not for his foolishness and lack of courage get off easy. God didn’t say “well, you tried your best” and give him a free pass. He may have borne his cross reluctantly, but he still bore it and only in bearing it did he come to say “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me.” If he gets to heaven it will be as we all must, with our many forgiven faults streaming behind us like tin cans clanging in the wind, sounding like a rusty “hallelujah!”
Suggestions for action
We all have impure motives and sometimes half-baked ideas about ourselves and God. Ask Jonah, the half-hearted saint, to pray for you that you would find the strange off-beat paths of grace.