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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Lesson for Writers from Jonah and the Whale

You might be thinking why on earth is she writing about Jonah and the Whale, but it's a great example of how we lose sight of God's provision. The whale gets a lot of face time, but Jonah had a run-in with two animals in the story...both seeming polar opposites of each other, and therein lies the heart of my lesson.

Animal #1 is the whale GREAT FISH. No duh, right? If Jonah is the "hero" of our story, then the Fish is certainly the secondary character. It swallowed Jonah whole, and clearly represented God's usage of the supernatural to rescue his creation in times of trouble. Jonah has his ah-ha moment when he says "Salvation comes from the Lord" while in the belly of the fish. He recognized the providence given to him by God in sustaining his life through being swallowed by a fish. 

Animal #2 is the WORM. What? A worm? What worm? Yep. Read it. At the end of the book, Jonah is sitting and waiting to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh. He's done his duty, called for repentance from the people of Nineveh, and now he's really waiting for God to turn them in to crispy critters. God provided a plant that grew up over Jonah and sheltered his head. "But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered" (Jonah 4:7). In our story, the Worm is the villain.

Does anyone else see the irony here? Jonah is saved by something larger than life--a freakishly huge fish--and yet he is undone by a something as insignificant as a tiny worm. Granted, a worm with teeth that chewed through his vine and made him uncomfortable with the heat of the sun beating down on him.

Don't we do this? Have an amazing God-ordained experience that sustains us and gives us motivation to keep writing, and in the blink of an eye, we're undone--made angry, made sarcastic, made bitter--by something so small on the scale of life. God chastises Jonah, asking him what right does he have to be angry and throw his little tantrum because the plant died (due to the villainous worm). 

Writers have whale moments, such as getting an agent, winning a contest, snagging a contract, getting a great review/endorsement, being in the coveted top 10 slot on Amazon. Then in the span of minutes, we can come crashing down in a storm of jealousy or bitterness due to a worm moment. A friend got a better review or is higher in their Amazon ranking, or we got a bad set of edits or critiques, or some contest judge thought our story was awful.

The lesson is to take these experiences more in stride. They are the little worms with great big teeth in our life, sent to destroy our happiness. But they have a lot in common with the great fish. Both animals were provided by God, and both were used to get Jonah's attention.

Let's analyze: What do you do when you face a situation where a worm has eaten your "vine," causing it to die?