But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.  But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “what do you mean, you sleeper?  Arise, call out to you god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” Jonah 1:4-6

Down, down, down. Hurling, hurling, hurling. Read Jonah 1 (or the whole book) and note how many times these and other allusions of descending into the depths are used. For example, God hurled the storm down around the boat Jonah was on trying to flee from God’s presence. The depths is a significant visual in the Bible. Perhaps you can recall other places in the Bible where this idea of “going down” is used (such as in the Psalms).

Life is full of layers. There are layers in rocks, the atmosphere, the ocean, the earth’s crust. We layer our clothes and love layered cakes. Books have layers of meaning. There are layers in woodworking, building and painting. You might want to add a new layer to your painting/drawing of the story of Jonah from last week.

C.S. Lewis writes in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader of going down through layers of crusty, scaly skin in the undragoning of the selfish boy Eustace. The boy’s attempts at taking off the layers of his dragon skin are futile, each layer peeled off revealing another layer. He couldn’t get down through the layers, only Aslan the Christ figure could remove them. “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.” Aslan transformed the dragon boy into a new creature.

Each person’s journey is different. God continued to pursue Jonah even though Jonah thought he was pushing him away. Like Jonah’s story, maybe the rescue isn’t until the depths have been descended, the destructive thought patterns destroyed, and the layers of pride and rebellion peeled off. It took the miracle of being swallowed by a whale for Jonah. The obstacles Jonah experienced while running away to Tarshish were his saving grace. Imagine the layers God has gone through to get to your heart. Journal about the storms in your life as God’s way of rescuing you from your sinful self.

By Donna Burns

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