Thoughts From the Belly of the Leviathan

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away … (Jonah 1:1-3).

When the pastor of my youth asked me whether I would consider the ministry, I took it seriously. But I was so strongly drawn to being an engineer that I chose not to pursue that path. I am still convinced I made the right decision, but ever since, I’ve sought consolation in the book of Jonah, seeing myself in him in more than one way.

I mean, I am really ready. Nobody can deliver fire and brimstone the way I can. If God is worried about the wickedness of this world, I am the one to turn the rocks over and reveal the scum. There are so many things I want to say.

But my plans haven’t necessarily turned out as I expected. I graduated third in my high school class, and you wouldn’t believe the difference in scholarship money between first and third place. I had to work my way through school. My first job objective was turbine design for the aircraft industry, but a poor grade in my fluid dynamics course changed that. Second, I decided to do robotics research at a national lab, but they turned me down. Third, I thought I’d design manufacturing robots – and I actually landed a job to do just that – even if I didn’t manage to make it out of the Midwest as I’d planned. Then, six months after I started work the company reorganized and I ended up doing computer programming. It took me eight years to get back into an engineering position.

I could also tell you how marriage and raising children are not at all what I had expected. My kids are experts at proving every theory I ever had wrong.

Things just haven’t happened the way I wanted them to. And all I can say is … “Praise God!” I have learned that I can tell my life two ways: as one disaster after another, or one blessing after another. The latter seems more God pleasing to me. Yes, there were a lot of things I wanted to say, but now I’m glad that many of them were never said. Even more so, my message is irrelevant. It is God’s message that is important.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:2).

Jonah only heard the word “wickedness” in God’s first message, and, due to his situation, fully agreed. So God’s plan confused him, and he ran away. Despite what Jonah wanted to tell Nineveh about its wickedness, God’s plan was different: one of repentance, salvation, and joy.

I had the opportunity to lead a Bible study of the book of Jonah about a year ago. My friends have long known about my fascination with this book, and I think they enjoyed finally hearing me expound on why. Our human nature, however, is always looking for a catharsis. When a literature teacher studies Jonah, they find it sorely lacking in that regard. And, I think my friends were disappointed to hear me say that I still felt like I was in the belly of the Leviathan. They expected a happier ending.

However, a year can make a big difference. Over the last few months I have begun to get a vague picture of how the things I have been doing connect me to God’s will. I’m getting excited about where He plans to send me from here.

Kevin J Knox