Earnest: Yo, Jonah!
Jonah: Yo, Earnest! What brings you all the way back here to Nineveh?
E. Well, it’s kind of embarrassing…
J. Please don’t tell me this is for another whale pun!
E. What? No, nothing like that.
J. Whew. That’s a relief. I can handle anything except another whale pun.
E. Oh, great! I actually wanted to talk to you about bitterness and judgmentalism.
J. Say, did you ever hear the one about the whale who…
J. Hey, c’mon Earnest. Give a guy a break. I would think three days in a whale’s belly would be enough penance for anyone.
E. That’s what I would have thought, too. But then there was the whole thing with the vine…
J. Dude, seriously? Have you no respect for the dead?
E. Hey, I’m not here to judge. Actually… I need your help.
J. For real? This isn’t some elaborate shaggy dog story?
E. For real. I… well, I heard a sermon about the Prodigal Son’s brother this morning, and it struck a little too close to home.
J. Ooh, this sounds good! Tell me more.
E. Well, I was visiting one of those churches that seems like they only focus on the “nice” side of God. Y’know, like Santa Claus, a giver of gifts… but never of coal.
E. Well, the preacher pointed out that the Pharisaical older brother was offended by the extravagant generosity of the Father, precisely because he hadn’t realized the Father had already gifted him everything He owned.
J. And this relates to me… how?
E. Well, a friend and I were discussing the Bait of Satan, and how bitterness and trauma can erase our memories to protect us from pain.
J. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I think I see where you’re going with this. You think just because I got angry with God over a vine that I’m some sort of expert on bitterness?
E. Well, that and the fact you as a prophet ran away from God and asked a bunch of heathens to throw you into the ocean.
J. Sheesh, why do you have to keep bringing that up?
E. Heh, speaking of “bringing up….”
J. No whale puns! Geez, what is wrong with you?
E. Actually, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask you.
J. How’s that again?
E. What exactly is it that is wrong with me?
Like you, I feel as if God has called me to be an agent of revival. Yet he keeps sending me to people I can’t stand. Whom I apparently don’t feel “deserve” revival — or forgiveness. Regardless of what my head, or theology, might say.
J. Huh. You’re actually serious.
E. Yeah. I’ve learned it is times like this that my brain lies to me, usually because of some deep pain or shame I’m unwilling to let surface…
J. No whale puns!
E. Hey, that was a metaphor, not a pun.
J. Same difference.
E. I don’t get it. Why are you so touchy about the whale thing? I mean, you did eventually write the whole story down, didn’t you?
J. Hey, just because I’m honest doesn’t mean I have to think it’s funny.
E. I wonder if that’s my problem.
E. I’m not ashamed of my sin. I’ve made peace with most of my demons. As far as I know, I don’t have any trouble confessing what I have done, or giving God glory for His righteousness in judging me.
E. There’s some things that are still too painful — too raw — too real — to laugh about.
J. Oh. Yeah. That.
E. Why is that?
J. Sigh. Okay, kid. You win. Grab a seat. Let me tell you a story.
[We sit. Jonah has a faraway look in his eyes.]
J. I was just a lad when God called me to be a prophet. Prophets were rare in that place and time, and it was a great honor —
and a great sacrifice. Telling the bitter truth to people you love — who end up hating the messenger…
J. Well, let’s just say it takes a toll. So many villages and towns destroyed because the people I pleaded with refused to repent. I know God is good. I know God is just. I hated it, but I had made my peace with it. Or so I thought.
E. Then Nineveh.
J. Exactly. Then Nineveh. I knew — knew! — that God was going to do The Thing. The very thing that He had refused to do for all the Israelites I had so desperately tried to save. He was going to forgive them, just like that.
[He snaps his fingers and jumps up, then begins to pace.]
J. I knew I was being an idiot. I knew intellectually there was no point in running from God. That’s why it wasn’t hard to tell my story. But emotionally…
E. All the truths you had told yourself to justify God — to ease the pain of the excruciating things God commanded you to do — were about to be turned into lies.
J. Exactumundo. What else can you do in such a situation but run from the truth as far as you can?
E. And even if God catches you, and your mind and strength are forced to agree with him…
J. …your heart and soul keep running away. Yeah, that’s me alright.
E. And… apparently me, too.
J. Sorry, I can’t help you kid.
E. But… you did!
J. Huh? I’m still the same old mess I ever was. I can see your mess, maybe even empathize, but I can’t fix you. I can’t even fix myself.
E. But… that’s it! That’s the thing I’m missing.
E. I think… that’s why I’ve been tying myself in knots. I’m afraid to see that part of me, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to fix it. And therefore I refuse to see and sympathize with The Other, because I already know I am inadequate to handle that kind of pain in myself.
J. Ooh! So when I was willing to show you that part of me, and see that part of you…
E. That broke the vow of silence, or darkness, or whatever the right metaphor is.
J. The blanket of shame.
E. Exactly. Which only has enough room for one, but if two share it…
J. Becomes a tent! Much better shade than a scrawny vine.
E. A fig leaf, that brings healing to the nations.
J. But… does that actually make sense?
E. Who cares? Don’t you feel better? I know I do.
J. Yeah, I guess I do.
E. And my problem was never with my thoughts, but my feelings. Maybe that was my whole problem. I was trying to think my way out of it…
J. … rather than simply relate.
E. Exactumundo. Thanks, Jonah.
J. Anytime, dude. That was actually pretty cool. You wanna stick around and hang out?
E. Sorry, but you know how it is. I…. gotta blow!
J. No wh… [and doubles over laughing]
One thought on “Jonah’s Brother”
I wonder if the most important lesson I need to learn is redefining Love as “empower by seeing” versus “fix by controlling”