Richard Rohr, who does a lot of significant work with men, has chosen the whale as the logo of his men’s ministry. The whale comes from the words Jesus declared when the crowds were increasing. “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it expect the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt 12:39). Rohr makes the point that the sign of Jonah is appropriate for men’s work, since grief and darkness are at the very heart of his work. Listen to what Rohr has to say, “Much of early men’s work is teaching men how to trust their time in the belly of the whale, how to stay there without needing to fix, to control or even to fully understand it and to wait until God spits you on a new shore.”
I know for myself, it has been hard to be left in the belly of the whale. The darkness of not knowing has lasted for much longer then three days. Remember Jonah was running from God’s purposes for his life. He did not what to go and preach at Ninevah. It was in the belly of the whale God gots his attention. Sometimes it is only in the unknown and darkness that we will finally cry out to God for help. God allows the apparent darkness to be a teaching space in our lives, especially when we are on the run like Jonah. As men we desire to control and understand our circumstances. It can be hard to admit that we are running from God and that some thing is broken in our lives. In the words of AA, “I am powerless to fix the brokenness of my life on my own. My life has become unmanageable.”
It is imperative to remember that it is out of love that God puts us into the belly of the whale. He knows we are on the run, even though we might think we are being a “niece Christian guy.” The worst response would be that of rebellion or anger at God. Evidently Jonah got the message for after just three day in that small and smelly space, God spit him unto a new shore. Jonah had learned his lesson. He would go God’s way. Sometimes, God in his compassion, and in acts of mercy will bring us back over the same ground, hoping that we will learn our lesson. This is sheer mercy. But he will not force us to obey. We can choose. Could the whale be a warning to you that you need to stop running?
Jesus warned a “wicked and adulterous generation” in giving them the sign of Jonah. This can be a warning to men. There are voices both in the culture and even the church that will not understand the special “teaching space” the the belly of the whale provides. Men I want to assure you that the great spiritual tradition of the past speaks with one voice on the necessity of the darkness and unknown. Could it be that “the sign of Jonah'” is a warning for us as men, to take a “second look” at what God is doing in the lives of Christian men? Could it be that many of us have had our special “spiritual improvement projects” operating, using them to protect ourselves from what God really wants in our lives? Could God be wanting to get your attention in the belly of the whale?