The Shrinking Self
But Jonah . . . went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord (v.3).
My boys like to play tag. For the moment I can still outrun them. One of our favorite spots to play is a green space in our neighborhood. It’s an odd-shaped, grassy lot that narrows on both ends. My boys have the habit of running to one of the corners at the field’s edge. They think they’re creating distance from me, but they’re really only painting themselves into a corner. I give them room to roam; and then when they think they’re safe and far away, I close in. Rather than escaping, they realize that their world has shrunk.
Jonah was a prophet, which means that he was one who spoke for God. When God told Jonah to travel to Nineveh, however, and “announce [God’s] judgment,” Jonah ran (Jonah 1:2). He headed for Joppa, a city in the opposite direction.
When he ran, Jonah’s world steadily shrank. The disobedient prophet snagged a ship sailing for Tarshish and jumped aboard. He “was sound asleep down in the hold,” literally “down in the far reaches of the vessel” (v.5). Jonah thought he was escaping; but if he had noticed, he would have clearly seen that his world was closing in around him. Soon enough, Jonah would be trapped in the belly of a large fish. At that point, his world consisted of merely a tight circle.
Jonah was running from God, but he was also running from himself. Jonah’s identity was as a prophet, but Jonah didn’t want to do what God commanded. He didn’t want to speak God’s message to a people he hated. As a result, it was not only Jonah’s world that was shrinking—but himself. Jonah was becoming less his true self, less the person God had created him to be.
When we run from God, we aren’t merely running—we’re shrinking.
Read 1 John 1:1. Note the various facts we’re told about our identity—who and what we are through God. How would running away from these truths diminish us?
In what area are you most tempted to run from God? How does this running make you less your true self?