The story of Jonah and the whale has been reverberating these last few days, bouncing around my mind as I vacillate between trying to string thoughts together and shutting down any thoughts at all. Why is this bit of scripture pestering me, what have I to learn or gather from the story of a man who avoided his calling, who went to extremes to push his own agenda and allow his anger and hate to fester? What I am sure of is this relentless pursuit of my soul is not of my prayers, rather those of all who are surrounding us in these dark days. I just want to be left alone, allowed to nurture my resentments and give way to the grief that is telling me to give up, to become bitter and even to explain to the God who is supposed to bring me comfort that He has failed me miserably. Yet the whale and this man are hounding me.
I can barely type the words that share I have lost my son. I cannot find motivation to live in this world without the hope of reconciliation, without the knowledge that my baby is out there somewhere, smiling and laughing and being so silly. No, I have been swallowed by the whale of heartache, unlike Jonah I haven’t found a way to pray to this God who seems to love others, to cherish them and allows a mother’s heart to be shredded again and again. I wish I were stronger, more faithful, to rest in the truth of God’s ever presence, even within a sea serpent’s belly of soul crushing devastation. But maybe if I allow a bit, a tiny thread of connection to this far away God, I can admit that even while Jonah was disobeying God, questioning the direction God was asking him to go, still He saved this man and allowed him sanctuary within the whale, a place of darkness, room to mourn for the ideas and hopes he had while preparing for the next step in his journey.
The rest of Jonah’s story is seemingly not for me, a future of proclaiming God’s faithfulness and even then resurrecting anger and hate. I am stuck in hopelessness, filled with the horror of seeing my son for the final time in such a horrible state, days after he had taken his last breath, after an autopsy that only brings insult to the baby I held, the child I nurtured and cuddled and bathed. Desecration, disrespect as the crematorium owner placed a box of tissues on top my son as he laid cold and bare, swollen and discolored, a simple act of treating him like a bench forever etched within my soul. The belly of the whale will hold me for longer than Jonah’s three days, I am comfortable there where no light shines. I have no great testimony to lead others to truths that seem empty as each night comes and then the morning, the sheer insult of time continuing for me when it has stopped for my boy.
Maybe one day I will emerge, asked to be thrust back into the world where I can find purpose and shout that God held me during my exile. Until then, I can feel the prayers of those who surround us, those who tell me that they are talking to God because they understand that I cannot, that I will not. The problem is that I do not want to loosen the binds of my grief, what is left if I allow myself to fall fully into this horror, will I someday come to laugh and smile again? How could I want to carry on, to do the work of this God who seems to care so little for me? No, Jonah, I will sit within the belly of my grief, you can pray to God all you want, I prefer to stay in the darkness, secluded from joy. God and I have some things to work through, words I must speak that are not fit for those who wait on the shore. I have been angry at God before but this time, this is just a bridge too far, a brokenness that will never be healed.
As raw as the fish that were swallowed with Jonah, my grief is foul and writhing. As I claim my time within it, I can hear the whispers of you all. Thank you for your belief, for lifting me and telling me to breathe. Someday I may tell you a story of my healing. That day is not today.