Are you familiar with the story of Jonah and the Plant?
I wasn’t. I stumbled across it last night in my break from editing wedding photos and was so taken aback that after all this time, I have not read Jonah 4 with more attention. It seems to get lost in the more notable Jonah and the Whale bit.
Scriptures are alive. You can be in relationship with someone for years and still not know everything there is to know about them. Relationship is a continual exploration of the vastness of our hearts and experiences and I do believe there is constant discovery within that exploration. Sometimes, aspects of another are just overlooked, masked or simply emerge later like sunken treasure revealed by a change of circumstance. Or perhaps sometimes, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (Wayne Dyer).
Regardless of how I missed it, the story of Jonah and The Plant has impacted me greatly today.
Let me summarize the story: God tells Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and pronounce His judgement. Jonah says no and actually catches a boat in the opposite direction toward another city hoping to escape God. A God-inspired storm arises, the crew freaks out and when the storm got violent enough they casts some lots to find out the culprit, and long story shorter Jonah is thrown into the sea and swallowed by a “great fish” for enough time for him to call uncle and is spat out on a beach where God tells him a 2nd time to go to Nineveh. This time no playing around, he does it. Jonah pronounces judgement on the city and the citizen listen. The people and the animals went into a fast and mourning period to show their repentance. ”When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.”
Jonah is pissed. The text says he was “greatly angered” by God’s change of plans. Jonah is in his program, no doubt. I would rather DIE that eat crow and not have my words come to pass. Essentially, I went before all these people said this stuff you told me to say in public really loud and now you are going to make me a liar? You put me through A LOT for me to get there, do this and now you change your mind? Shouldn’t we keep our word, God? I really don’t want to look stupid. You knew you would spare them because as Psalms 145 reads, “God is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing [steadfast] love.” Why would you set me up like that.
God simply asks, “Is it right for you to be this angry about this?” Jonah pouts and heads outside the city to wait for it’s destruction. He made a shelter so he was content to wait a minute to see this come to pass.
[Enter plant stage left.] God allows a plant to grow and shade Jonah from the heat and he was grateful for it’s shade which eased his discomfort for a mere day. Then God sent a worm to eat the stalk and the plant died. Jonah was angry the plant died and insisted that dying is better than this – this being waiting in the scorching heat sweating waiting for 120,000 people and animals to die. Mind you, he walked outside the city on his own accord in the same manner he jumped on a boat to avoid going to Nineveh. And God speaks, “You feel sorry about the plant though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and went quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Should I feel sorry for such a great city?”
This story is layered but contextually for where I am in this moment on this day, I feel the greatest lesson is this: Given the choice to be right or kind, pick kind. Seek not the destruction of others nor wait on them to undergo harsh judgement for their bad deeds but instead seek peace and understanding and go about your business rather than make a self-made camp of misery. The ego part of me really really REEEEALLLLLLY wants to be right and if I am so vulnerable to admit, at first, I want those who have sinned against me to suffer and befall whatever “destruction” awaits even if I have to do it myself. Resentment, resistance and revenge.
The ego says…. Wait, you are important, you shouldn’t be treated this way. You deserve this, not that …after all you have done. Plans cannot change. That feeling that you ought not treat me this way – You shouldn’t be doing this – I deserve more than to be treated this unkindly and unloving. Yes, Ego, I hear you. Yes, it’s not fair or right.
Humility. Gentleness. Kindness. Love. Forgiveness. Flexibility.
Along come people into your life who push your buttons, namely for me my family and romantic relationships. These experiences that produce that nuclear button triggering have lead me to really just loudly proclaim, ” You haven’t mastered yourself at this point.” If you had, you wouldn’t respond with that level of intensity. Bringing childlike curiosity to the situation, why am I reacting this way? Why was Jonah reacting the way he did? Why would you rather see a city destroyed than saved?
Let’s get real, those values above take work to cultivate and a form of humble self-discipline that requires growth to step outside the normal self-program of victim, the desire to be right… or whatever self-protecting ego program you run. Sometimes I think another fruit of the spirit should have been”to-move-on’ness” rather than dwelling on the wrongs and faults. Successfully people move forward. They move on and they stop telling stories of the past wrongs and abusive stories.
The reason these situations or those persons show up in my life is to teach me my own worthiness and power. Challenging me to accept and embrace my own worthiness.
Honoring the lesson and more so honoring the teacher is a difficult one to master.
I have the choice to choose to be at peace as do you. I can choose peace rather than this. Choose to be kind.
I am standing before a woman who is dancing with her husband of over 30 years who is dying of cancer. I ponder, why a tribute dance for a couple besides the parents or grandparents, when the bride whispered over my shoulder in a hushed tone. “He postponed his surgery till Tuesday so he come to the wedding. They are not certain of what the outcome will be.”
Suddenly the space between us feels sacred.
What moment do you want to live in? This one. Each moment is full of richness waiting to be experienced. It makes all unkindness fade away as light illuminates darkness.
I thought of an old song by Diamond Rio - One More Day. When faced with trials of a certain gravity, it strips us bear to the foundational things. It isn’t in those precious moments we’d hope to have acclimated more wealth, a more diverse stock portfolio, or a mansion in Malibu as the song says but rather we find ourselves wishing for one more day. We are born naked and we leave the same. The “things” we take with us are intangibles, namely love.
I watched them cherish each other so beautifully that brackish tears collected under my chin with huge welling sums dripping onto my chest. I was moved so deeply. The moment continued to converged as other couples joined the dance floor. The extremely expectant mother whose belly button was protruding through her dress as she swayed with her sandy blond son with curly hair. The elderly couple with wrinkled veiny hands and gold rings who laughed and smiled at each other in a way that would rival newly weds.
Life was here. Love transpired. Present fully in this one tiny moment bursting with contradictions. And sometimes, I feel God so close that His presence permeates. It wrecked me.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace
The moment is captured. Seen through a lens and stored on a disc. What affects me the most is that this may be the last photo they ever take together.
I’m catching up on blogging and editing from the crazy spring and summer I had! A feeeeew months back, I shot a wedding with Joe O’Daniels with O’Studios. It was my pleasure to work with him and his wife, Becca, as his second shooter for his wonderful couple, Alissa and Doug, getting married in Savannah, Georgia. Here are a few of my shots. Here is a link to Joe’s post from their wedding.