“The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.” Jonah 2:5 NIV
Sometimes in life we can feel trapped, hedged in (as Job puts it in his book) and we are upside down like Jonah is here at the bottom of the sea with no way out and even the seaweed wrapping itself around us like binding tentacles. And we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that such feelings are fleeting or only last for moments. Some decades feel like this, frankly.
As a writer, I love the seemingly small details in bible stories that tell me these things were really experienced. Jonah could speak for ages about being on the seabed, but it is that the usually friendly greenery there even turns into an enemy that hooks me in both emotionally and suspends any disbelief. And those swathes of plant life must also have impeded his sight, maybe feeling like a blindfold. As someone who suffers from claustrophobia, this is a frightening sensation to be drawn into. I know, like Jonah, that panic and despair would destroy any ideas I might have had about being saved, about my own abilities to swim, or any belief in my own powers. Utterly helpless, totally hopeless, beginning to drown, where is our God then? Well, as it turns out, his solution is hovering nearby. As soon as Jonah manages to cry out in his spirit, sending a desperate prayer sky-rocketing, the giant fish or whale is there to save him.
Rescue often looks bizarre or unexpected at first. And yet, there wasn’t time to get Jonah to the surface, not even to disentangle him from the watery triffids. So air had to come to him, and the plants be torn up with him, so being swallowed down by a great sea creature was an inspired solution, even avoiding the dreaded bends. How our God thinks of everything! And maybe at this point the seaweed blocking Jonah’s sight was a blessing in disguise, as I doubt it would have done much for his faith to see a huge creature coming at him open-mouthed.
Our prayers are anticipated, our desperations understood, however long we have to suffer them. God’s answers may look strange and take us on journeys that seem just as dark and bizarre, but in the end, there is a surfacing and a spewing, and a new beach of opportunity waiting for us.
Photo from Morguefile.com