This week our First Reading during Mass will come from the story of Jonah. Jonah and the whale is a kid's classic for a reason. It has everything you want--animals, fantastical adventures, a redemptive character arc--but when I think about Jonah, I always think about the last chapter. Chapter 4 is the story of what Jonah does after the people of Nineveh repent, and it's what makes me love Jonah the most. After he runs off, gets swallowed and then thrown up, convinces a whole town to knock it off and follow God, what does Jonah do? He throws a tantrum. How relatable is that? Maybe you're more mature and evolved than me, but I really get where he's coming from. What do you mean the bad guys don't whooped in the end?
I was thinking about us humans and our propensity for tantrums during the first round of Covid lockdowns in 2020. We were told to shelter in place, and so many folks got up in arms about the "injustice" of having to stay home, even as the world we knew turned upside down. It reminded me how angry Jonah got with God for the kind of shelter God offered. This week I've been thinking about shelter again, as I imagine most of us are hunkered down, taking shelter from the bitter cold. What does the idea of God as Shelter have to reveal to us in times like this? Who is this sheltering God and what does their shelter feel like?
Below you'll find a reflection I wrote during the first lockdown of Covid on what this God of shelter might be like. I offer it to you for your exploration, and I hope you'll let me know how you experience Shelter this week. Stay safe and warm -- I'll offer prayers for your water pipes if you offer prayers for mine!
Inspired by Jonah, Chapter 4
Sometimes I think about Jonah
About his childish anger
About his temper tantrum in the face of grace
I too have thrown tantrums
I too have begrudged the salvation of those who've harmed me
I too have stomped around and slung my arm across my eyes--
"I'd rather die than live with this injustice!"
But that isn't the way of Shelter
Shelter doesn't care who huddles under its protection
Shelter isn't interested in retribution
Shelter isn't worried if we get a little wet around the edges
Shelter carries on with its own business
Leaning into whatever comes
Waiting for us to stop counterfeiting our own safety
And step inside.