Fish Vomit

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 – Proper 23, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) // 12, 13, 14 (evening)

Jonah 1:17-2:10

Acts 27:9-26

Luke 9:1-17

A seminary classmate of mine introduced me to a wonderful saying: “Either you can do it now, or you can do it later, smelling like fish vomit.” The saying derives from today’s first reading. Jonah is trying to avoid the unpleasant task of preaching repentance to the citizens of Nineveh. When he tries to flee by boat, Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a huge fish.

After Jonah cries out for deliverance, the fish “spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.” The second time that God calls Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah obeys. He could have saved a lot of time and smelled a lot better if he’d just followed through the first time!

Is there some inevitable task that we, like Jonah, are avoiding, dreading, or running away from? Whether it’s a yearning we must fulfill, a vision we must turn into reality, a change we must make, or a fear we must face, perhaps we can move in the direction of our Nineveh sooner rather than later.

But what if we’ve been avoiding something so long that we’re starting to smell like fish vomit? We know deep in our gut, at the bottom of the sea, in the belly of the fish, that there’s something we must do . . . but we’re starting to reek of all the strategies that we use to avoid this calling.

In times like this, it’s worth recalling that the fish that swallows us and spews us out is actually a gift from God: “The Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah.” God provides a fish to move us toward where we must go, even when we can’t make it there on our own two feet.

Today, let’s ask God to help us move closer to where we need to go today, whether we do what we need to do smelling clean and fresh, or like fish vomit. As long as God is leading us, we can hardly go wrong.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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