From a very young age, my brother and I loved giving birth to stories.
We were progressively getting good at story telling, whether it was the one we had to make up to appease our anxious parents for coming home past our curfew hour or the ones we made up for missing school as we could not finish our homework on time. I seriously don’t know where we learned to come up with stories in such short notice.
I wonder if it all began when we started spending some weekends and summers as kids with our younger cousins. The saying ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ is true. I could say that my cousins became desperate when they ran out of games to play and movies to watch and decided to turn to my brother and I to entertain them. Sometimes, they would name things, people, birds, insects or animals and we would make up a spontaneous story with their choice of characters.
Most of all, we loved to make them laugh with our crazy imagination and our animated stories. I can still picture us rolling on the floor laughing till our stomachs hurt and our eyes teared. To this day, these memorable moments of playfully sitting together and sharing stories are treasured and we continue to talk and laugh about it in our family gatherings.
Stories have a way with us, don’t they? Whether they are fabricated or based on true experiences they fascinate us and engage us. They capture our imagination and invite us into its world of smell, color, texture, emotions and characters. The more we step into it the more we laugh hysterically, chuckle sheepishly, cry frantically, get scared out of our wits and sometimes even become furiously angry. If told well, a good story not only engage our senses, but also invites us into the life of the other – to share in their joy and suffering.
One of my favourite stories is from the Book of Jonah. Some may argue that it is a fabricated and ridiculous story that could not have happened. I beg to differ. The very fact that Jesus believed it really happened and talked about it – settles the issue for me (Matthew 12:38-42).
Every time I read or listen to the story of Jonah, the images, the sounds and smell almost seem to come alive and capture my imagination. As a child I was not only spellbound by a big fish that swallowed a man, but I was also going wild with imagination thinking about someone praying in the belly of a fish.
As an adult, I see that there is more to the story than just a man and a big fish. Now, I see GOD as its central character and whose love is stubborn and crazy. Although the people of Nineveh were living wicked and ungodly lives and deserved to be punished, GOD was patient towards them and extended his grace by sending Jonah, a reluctant prophet, to call them back to Himself. The more I read, the more I am amazed by this merciful and gracious GOD who satisfies His anger and reconciles us to Himself in and through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Today, as I re-read the story for the umpteenth time I began to re-imagine it all over again. Let me share some of my observations this time around.
1. GOD is sovereign and it is very evident in this story.
2. We see GOD’s intervention and interaction in the life of people. GOD controlled the Wind (1:4), directed the Whale (1:17) and prepared the Worm (4:7) to bring attention to Himself and clarify His purposes to Jonah. In other words, GOD uses His creation to accomplish His purposes.
3. Jonah’s story is GOD’s story. And, GOD’s story is our story. When we read the story of Jonah we are reminded that GOD does not exist to serve us and our purposes. On the contrary, we exist to serve GOD and His purposes.
4. We cannot frustrate GOD’s ways and plans by our disobedience. What He desires to accomplish through us will come to pass, despite all our kicking and screaming.
5. GOD has good plans for us and will see to it that it unfolds in our lives (Ephesians 2:10).
In light of Johah’s story, what is the Wind that GOD is causing in your path to get your attention? What is the Whale that GOD is directing in your way to bring you back to live for His purposes? What is the Worm GOD has provided in your circumstances to teach you about His love and grace that is not only available for you, but also for the people in this world?
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.