This post is about faith, and what I see as God’s intervention in my life. It is also an extended metaphor, a habit for which I am famous though my methaphors often begin to fall apart rather rapidly. I like to think of that as part of my charm.
Perhaps I should first tell you the story of Jonah and the whale, for those of you who missed that day in Sunday school. Jonah was a prophet who God instructed to go to a city called Nineveh to preach. But Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think he was scared. So he got on the first ship going in the opposite direction, to Tarshish. There followed a series of unfortunate events that ended with Jonah getting thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. Three days and three nights later, the whale spit him out. At which point he got with the program and headed to Nineveh. I guess three days in a whale’s belly was enough. (As an aside, what do you think would be the worst part of being in a whale’s belly? Is it stinky? Hot? Hard to breathe? Or–oh, horrors!–are you sitting in digestive juices? Also, does a whale have digestive juices?)
I haven’t thought much about this story since I was a child. Reflecting on it now, I can relate to Jonah. As a child, I used to imagine that God’s voice telling him to go to Nineveh was loud and clear (cue booming voice from a cloud: “JONAH! Get thee to Nineveh!!!), but now I’m not so sure. I imagine now that His voice was quiet, so quiet that Jonah was unsure whether he heard it or imagined it, and so proceeded to Tarshish. I also thought as a child that Jonah was a bad man and that he was going to Tarshish to get in all kinds of trouble. Now I imagine that Jonah was, at his core, a good man. I imagine that he intended to do good things in Tarshish. All in all, he was probably just going about his life in what he thought was the right way, even though in the back of his mind, though he didn’t admit it to himself, he knew he was running from God.
When I was in high school, my career goal was to be a pediatric surgeon. This plan emerged from a vague but real desire to help sick children. During my freshman year at college, I followed the pre-med track, and so took courses like Introduction to Chemistry, Genetics, Calculus II, etc. It was during my sophomore year that I decided to abandon medicine in favor of the humanities. My life, of course, then followed a completely different path than I planned as a teenager. I eventually became a teacher and earned my masters in education leadership. I’m not sure at what point I started heading to my metaphorical Tarshish. I’m also not sure that my detour to Tarshish wasn’t part of God’s plan – after all, I met and married my wonderful husband on that road. When I became pregnant, the plan was to put Jacob in day care while I continued to pursue my career goals. But instead I found myself in the whale’s belly – the NICU at Tampa General Hospital. And now I’m on my way to Nineveh.
I say all of that to say this – I don’t know what awaits in my Nineveh. But I do suspect that God has been preparing me for this. Perhaps the desire I had early in life to “help sick children” will be fulfilled through being Jacob’s mother. Perhaps God has something even bigger in mind. Does he intend for me to become an advocate for children with rare diseases like citrullinemia? Am I supposed to go to medical school after all? (Please, God, say no!)
All I know is that in the complete upheaval of my life in the last month and a half, every prayer, large and small, has been answered, some of them by people who may be reading this post, whether or not they know it. If God wanted my attention, he has it. But please, God, one whale is enough for one lifetime. I’m going to Nineveh, and you can tell me what to do when I get there. I promise I’ll listen.