Jonah & the "other"

I keep saying that at some point I'm going to go and get a second tattoo, but I haven't been entirely set on what I'd like to get until now. 

I don't know that I'll get this exact design, but I really, really love this image. Muscular though he may be, Jonah has just been spat out of this ginormous, prehistoric looking fish and is literally running out of his clothes. Why was he inside the belly of a fish? Because he would have just assumed flee and face ocean and all its might than go to Ninevah and call the people to repentance. To see them actually repent and turn to God would have been too much for him. 

And what did God do?

"But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:17b)

Note: Sometimes providence comes in the form of something terrifying and swallows us up. 

After Jonah had his own moment of repentance and made it back onto dry land, God plead with him again to go to Ninevah. Finally he obeys, travels there, preaches repentance, and sure enough the people turn to God. Jonah is infuriated by this. He decides to take a seat with a good view of the city, though the heat is blistering, hoping that God will still decide to demolish Ninevah. 

"The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.'" (Jonah 4:6-8)

God chose to spare the Ninevites and Jonah's still not happy about it. Oh AND his shade bush is gone now.

"But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?'" (Jonah 4:9-11)

I'm like Jonah sometimes. It's not out of the ordinary for me to feel like God is asking me to pursue and love the "other," when I would rather keep a safe distance and talk about how awful the "other" is in my spare time. 

Over roughly the past year I've been grateful to serve as a lector and lay eucharistic minister at my church. I was telling a friend today that I believe everyone should serve as a eucharistic minister at some point. It's a humbling experience, to say the least. After looking 20+ people in the eyes, holding out a common cup, and saying "the blood of Christ, cup of salvation," you begin to actually believe the words coming out of your own mouth. This especially good for me since I have my seasons where I'm prone to cynicism and frustration with the "other." 

It's at the table that I stand across from my fellow beloved, imperfect people, hold out my hands, open my heart, and say "Jesus, I need you." It's around the table that all of my frustrations and the walls I've built begin to crumble and fall to the ground. It's around the table that "them" dissolves and I'm left there with only "us."

As we go about our days and weeks, may we be increasingly sensitive to the Spirit of God and who God is calling us to embrace when would rather risk the ocean. May we be quick to open our hands, open our hearts, repent when we have done wrong, and receive the grace, mercy, and providence of God in all their many forms.