Jonah is pitching a fit over the withering of his shade-vine when God speaks.
I think it’s quite telling that God not only addressed Jonah’s immediate complaint, but went behind it to what was really bugging him. God knew all about our propensity for projection long before the psycho-experts came up with a name for it!
Of course these aren’t God’s exact words; you can read them easily enough in less than a minute, if you look up the book of Jonah in the Bible. No, this is my extended paraphrase of what I’ve heard God say to me whenever I’m throwing a hissy-fit (grin):
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Jonah, you took great pleasure in this vine you had no hand in creating. Even so, it blessed you and you received the blessing of its shade. You loved this mere plant that sprang up while you did nothing to cause it.
But I – I created those people down there in Nineveh. Have I no right to be emotionally attached to them, more even than you are to that vine that you merely watched grow? I formed them and breathed life into them. They didn’t just spring up from nowhere.
Not only do I enjoy them, they have blessed me, yes they have. By turning their eyes toward me, if only to plead for mercy, they have blessed me. They blessed me by seeing me; they honored me as God. They Named me.
Can you not see that I thrive on their blessings? And yours. For you, Jonah, even in your grudging obedience, you bless me.
You, my petulant prophet, a single glance of your eye warms my heart, even when you’re angry at my compassion. But I must be compassionate; that is my name.
Ah Jonah, you’re so delightfully human and I love you for it. That’s why I longingly wait for the day you’ll set aside your childish ways and become a man. I so desire to see you enter into the sheer joy I experience as I lavish my care on my creation, sustaining life, giving little gifts that bring a smile and a release of tension, replacing mourning with beauty and rejoicing.
Oh my servant, my faithful prophet, I invite you: rejoice with me! These children were lost but now they’re found! They were once objects of my wrath but now they’re the subjects of my compassion. Just like you.
Don’t you remember? Just a few days ago you were in the bowels of my anger. You could have remained there and rotted in your stubbornness. But you turned your eye toward me. You chose to look to me for help, and I can never resist the slightest glance from one of my children!
Even wrapped in seaweed my heart lurched with love for you. I rescued you because I delighted in you.
Yes, I delighted in you, just like I delight in my children the Ninevites, the ones you’re so eager to see destroyed. No, you’re not all that different from them, not on the inside. They repented, just like you did, not all that long ago.
But that’s all in the past. Today is dancing time! The Prodigal has returned. The party has begun! You’re always with me, but these people – oh, break out the fatted calf, my elder son. They made my day with a single glance of their eyes!
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Can’t you see that I dance over you as well? Yes I’m always dancing over you,[/pullquote]
too. Come! Join with me in the dance!
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[Note: the author apologizes for any mixing of metaphors and for the gleeful mélange of phrases from scripture.]