What wisdom is this?
My children hopped into the minivan and answered the weekly question.
“What’d you learn in church today?” They know I’ll ask; talking about church lessons is what we do every Sunday afternoon.
So my daughter tells me the basics: Jonah and the big fish.
Her sister fills in the peripherals about eating crackers shaped like fish and other sea creatures for snack and we praise their teachers’ creativity. Then she holds up storyboard cutouts she made with construction paper and markers.
Here’s Jonah (he looks remarkably like a Veggie Tales character). Here’s the fish. Here’s the ship. Here’s the island.
She holds them up for display and, in my mom-way, I praise her work and notice the details.
They finish off the story together about hearing God, about disobedience, about forgiveness, about God’s grace.
Mostly, it’s normal Sunday fare, the retelling of a story they’ve heard, read and seen a hundred times at least.
“Mom,” she says, “what if the whale was God’s way of rescuing Jonah?”
What if it was part of God’s plan, a salvation mission, a blessing, a large, smelly, hulking mass of grace out there in the middle of the sea on a stormy night?
I’ve heard grown men and women finally come to that conclusion about Jonah, but this child of mine thinks it through slowly.
Because he was out in the middle of nowhere. And sure the fish was smelly and he could have been digested, but he’d never be able to swim on his own to land. He would have drowned.
God sent a fish to save Jonah’s life.
That’s what she concludes.
Not just his physical heart-beating, breath-filled, flesh and blood life either.
That fish gave Jonah the time, the opportunity, and the reason to repent and declare: “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9 NIV).
Yes, it says it right there in the Bible that I open later as I sit at my kitchen table and ponder this child’s wisdom:
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17 NIV).
The Lord provided that fish, just as much as manna in the wilderness for a wayward nation, and a ram in the brush for Abraham to sacrifice, and loaves and fish to feed a hungry crowd of more than 5,000.
Miraculous provision and mysterious grace–that’s what that fish was.
Sometimes the grace we encounter is just such a mystery, salvation disguised as circumstances that reek with stench and leave us sitting in the darkness day after solitary day, maybe even as circumstances that seem to vomit us out onto the shore.
Jonah saw the provision of the whale as the unmistakable evidence of God at work.
We don’t always see. We might not know the end result, the reason, the whys and wherefores of this and that.
Perhaps, like Jonah, God disciplines and redirects us. Perhaps, He simply redeems the evil and downright difficult circumstances of a fallen world, protecting us and delivering us in the end.
Perhaps we won’t know all the ways He’s at work in our lives.
Why didn’t we get that job or promotion?
Why not this relationship?
Why this illness?
Why was I stuck in this traffic jam and late for the appointment?
Why this brokenness?
Can we always see the reason for the big fish? No, not always. Yet, we trust that it’s there, a purpose or plan, and we’re just too finite-minded and near-sighted to see it.
We can stop beating the sides of the beast in hopes we’ll be released right out into the middle of the sea….and instead start praising God from the belly of that whale, thanking Him that even when we don’t see the reason or the destination, He’s in control and He’ll take us safely to the shore.
That’s what an eight-year-old teaches me on a Sunday afternoon drive home from church.
What wisdom is this?
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King