I am working through Becoming Your Story, a journaling course, when it mentioned Jonah and the Whale. All it actually says is this, but I got so much more from it.
Falling out of myth is like being regurgitated by Jonah’s whale as it beaches. We suddenly see a bigger world outside the belly of the whale, but it also feels like an
alien and disorienting world that we don’t know how to navigate. Meanwhile the whale that has been our environment and our containing story dies and decays.!
p115 Becoming Your Story
Ok so picture this – you’ve been sent to go and do some huge task that you don’t want to do. I think we often hear this in our childhood or teens. But it is so huge we runaway. I know I ran away into was drink, drugs, etc. Other people can runaway in a calmer, more acceptable fashion. In the running away you get to a place where others throw you overboard (we’re on the Jonah on the ship now) and you get swallowed up by something that you know has saved your life. Ok it isn’t great inside the whale but it is safe, you are going nowhere, you’ve got enough to eat, you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any harm. You’re even wondering if you could live the rest of your life in that dull, dark place.
One day the whale beaches and vomits you out. I know we have seen the children’s picture books of how the whale is out at sea and does this huge spit, generally with a smile of its face, and out flies Jonah. Sorry but it wouldn’t have worked like that. To get Jonah on to the beach safely the whale had to be on the beach and vomiting.
Suddenly you are out of the dark, safe place. The sky is big and bright. You know you are up for this. You see all the signs pointing which way to go. In the Bible story it appears Jonah knew which way he had to walk to get to Nineveh. Maybe he knew how long it would take, maybe he didn’t. For us knowing how long it will take to even just live the rest of our lives a question that frightens us – saving for old age, giving up/taking up a career, having children, etc. How much of what we have got used to can we take with us? This whale is dead!
So we have a choice. We can  walk away alone from the dead, safe place,  we can stay by the dead, safe place and live off it as it rots, or we can take some of the dead meat with us. With the last two options we will be living off dead and decaying meat. Stinking flesh. Rotting flesh. We need to leave the dead behind and move on into the unknown.
We all need to leave the dead behind, whether real people who have died too soon, dreams and ambitions, safe places, expectations. That isn’t to say that we don’t grieve for those we’ve lost – whether people, places, dreams or expectations – but we don’t try to carry them with them. We let go of going over phrases like “if only I had done x,y,z then ….”
There’s a lovely song by Hazel O’Connor from 1980 called If Only that has stayed with me all those years and has helped to keep me focused and not carrying the dead, rotting whale with me.
What’s done has been done, and I won’t be the one
Who despairs in the wheelchair, resigned to “If only”
No, I’ll stand up again and I’ll run
I’ll jump up till I touch the sun
Because I won’t be the one to be bound
By the sound of “If only, if only, if only”
So like Jonah, we must walk away, leave the dead meat on the beach to rot, walk through the grieving process, as painful as that is, and wait to see what comes. And if we stay with the Jonah story there is hurt, disappointment, anger to come. But what I always hope is that after God has withered the vine and Jonah has had a major moan about it, he ponders and gets over it, moves on from Nineveh and walks into the rest of his life – with its hurts, disappointments, issues but also its running and leaping and wondering.
Let each and everyone us look and say “This whale is dead. Let’s leave the dead meat to rot on the beach and go to what’s next.”