Stooping to Our Loftiness

The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage. {Jack London}

Jonah is the strangest character. Any notion of the noble prophet thundering God's message evaporates as soon as our story begins. The book of Jonah, whatever else it might be, is a comedy. Jonah stands as a blight on the prophetic lineage. I imagine Elisha, Jeremiah or Elijah at the gatherings of the guild, raising motions to have Jonah's credentials revoked. We know Jonah's story so well because of his failure, because of his resistance. Because he ran. Those three days in the fish's belly were the marks of disaster, not triumph.

Yet most often, we read the foibles of our favorite Biblical characters as if their prime purpose is to cajole us to do better. We should not run like the prophet. We should not deny like Peter. We should not doubt like Thomas. We should not surrender to sexual escapades like David or Solomon or so many, many others. We should not grumble like Israel or be a total disaster like those Corinthians who are to this day the poster children for all that can go wrong in the church.

In other words, we often read the Bible as if it's attempting to tell us that we should be better than almost every character found in its pages. Put that way, it's nearly impossible to say (at least with a straight face) that I'll have any better luck. ;

However, the Bible's first intent is not to provide morals (though it provides some along the way). Rather, the Bible narrates a story. In this story (as with any good story), there is good and evil, hope and ruin, love lost and love found. In this story, God engages humanity. God loves. And God wishes for us to love in return. As we all know, however, love is nothing if not messy. Love takes circuitous paths. Love requires risk. ;

Apparently, love required God to hurl a ferocious wind at a ship while a prophet slumbered (in soul and body) amid the cargo stashed deep in the bowels. This storm threatening to splinter the ship and drown them all was a strange mercy. It was God engaging Jonah on Jonah's terms. If Jonah wanted to run, then he could run. God would not stop him; but God, with all the fury of love, would meet Jonah on the open waters.

As Jacques Ellul said, "God's action is infinitely…subtle and complex. God is personally involved in the drama. He is not just the omnipotent God doing as he wills in heaven and earth. [God] stoops to man's loftiness. As he wrestled with Jacob at the ford of Jabbok, so he wrestles as an equal with Jonah."

It's too small a narrative to think that God merely wants us to do better. God desires to gather up the scattered pieces of our wreckage and pull them back together, creating a new and beautiful story.

2 Replies to “Stooping to Our Loftiness”

  1. Thanks for the simplicity and clarity in your writing. Beauty from ashes seems to be God’s way in us. I am grateful.

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