A Whale of a Tale

When Ian and I were pregnant with John, one of the first things I asked after our first ultra sound seeing that beautiful beating heart and perfect developing baby was what kind of theme we were going to decorate with. Looking back what a silly question that shows my consumerism, I suppose, but I was so excited I wanted to go all out for our baby. Even though at the time we were living in a 1 bedroom very small apartment, we looked at themes not just for bedding but art and clothes and books. We eventually settled on nautical, we could use pictures Ian had taken and I felt like we could find things that would inspire an infant and grow well for bedding and décor. I loved it all. I even did detailed whale and fish puzzles while pregnant. From boats to sand to sea creatures, I couldn’t imagine a better environment for our dear John.

Then John was here and with the diligence of a new mother I used the whale bath thermometer and wrapped him in blankets of gorgeous boats and tossed rings onto the octopus, but in the exhaustion that comes with new motherhood, I don’t feel like I gave the theme I had so beautifully planned and executed due diligence. In fact as John out grew things it didn’t seem like any of the boats or fish or themed items had made any impression. He wasn’t overly attached to any of it. I was thankful in some ways because I never wanted him to be so obsessed with any earthly thing, he felt like he couldn’t be without it, but as I realized the work that I (and everyone who helped me prepare for John coming into the world) put into developing this theme I was disappointed that there was no need to maintain it. I really thought absolutely none of it had embedded itself into John until recently.

As we have settled in the last few months, bringing our faith more to the forefront of our living, John started requesting more books of faith, which of course made Ian and I very happy, but for the last month he has had one nightly request that makes me smile from ear to ear. As we get John ready for bed we each read a book, John’s request is consistently the story of Jonah and the Whale. He loves the story so much he tries hard to read it on his own and can recite most of it from memory. At first I thought this was an odd choice, but then I remembered the whales and boats that filled his nursery and smiled, hoping that this was the smallest hint that all of that was indeed not forgotten, but will lead him to deepen his faith.

A small icon of the Prophet Jonah we are blessed with.

Looking past the nursery theme, though, Jonah was not a story I had ever put much thought into and had not read since childhood, but since John liked the little book we read so much I decided to read the 4 or 5 different versions we have in children’s bibles and then in my study bible. It is a short book, barely 3 pages in my study bible. Really the only thing the children’s versions leave out is the specific prayer Jonah prayed while in the whale (or large fish/sea creature) and yet in every version the story teaches so much and I am over joyed and proud that John has selected this text to be on repeat in our nightly routine.

It is fun to debate with John what kind of whale or fish might have swallowed Jonah and to explore his imagination on whether Jonah tried to tickle his way out before praying, but it is also leading to great conversations about our faith like what is worse disobeying God like Jonah or throwing evil parties like the Ninevites (of course the specifics of the parties is left out, right now he thinks the were just mean with lots of junk food), but he is gaining an understanding that both are bad as well as it is not our place to judge how others live, because our judgement can lead us to make bad decisions of our own.

This story has also helped us as a family talk about Lent as it quickly approaches and how we need to seek repentance. I have found in many instances John is more likely to apologize when caught doing something unwanted. He also holds Ian and I being parents a little less against us, when we need to ask his forgiveness of him. What a blessing!

This month of getting to know the story of Jonah better and letting it guide us in our faith and life has been amazing. Are we all perfect, loving, obedient, Christians because of it? No, but what ever prompted John to become attached to this story has most definitely benefitted our lives and I pray that we can continue to build and develop the many lessons Jonah teaches us all.

Have you ever thought something of your past was completely forgotten only to notice in however small way it is back in front of you? If you have children, what are some recent lessons they have taught you?

Comparing notes on the various Jonah stories we have.

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