by Anna Kate McWhorter, Staff Writer
Being in divinity school and living with depression is an experience that makes me feel a lot like Jonah. In an act of geographical disobedience, Jonah doesn’t even wait to respond to God’s call before he runs in what is quite literally in the opposite direction. For me, the disobedience comes in the form of forgetting who I am, refusing to ask for help when I so desperately need it, not taking care of myself, ultimately giving in to and even indulging in my depression. I am convinced that there is no greater bully than your own mind when the lights are out and no one else is around. In the words of Anne Lamott, “I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” So I am at times, like Jonah, swallowed up; the “waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains (Jonah 2:5).”
Jonah is portrayed as an anti-prophet who disobeys and runs away and melodramatically asks to die over and over again, but here’s the punch line: WE are Jonah. Maybe we’re swallowed by anxiety instead of a big fish, or maybe something else entirely. Ironically, we, like Jonah, are short term with our anxiety and long term with hoping. Hope is for later. Anxiety is for now.
Throughout the Gospels, Jonah is the only prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus ever compares himself to (in Matthew 12 and Luke 11). Maybe if Jonah can still be likened to Jesus, even after all of his temper tantrums…maybe we’re still fit to be appointed. Maybe I can deal with depression…and still be fit to be a minister. It may seem like an inconvenient kind of love between Jonah and God. Yet, we must not forget that that God is one who is recklessly extravagant with grace with Jonah, and with us. We might feel inadequate for one reason or another, but we are all still appointed to do great things. And maybe that extravagant grace can remind us that we are more than what we accomplish; that we are human beings, and not just human doings.
So, like Jonah, may we let God call to us. May we mess up in big ways, may we throw a tantrum here and there. May we swim in the oceans of grace that are promised to us and appointed to us by the same God that not only tolerated Jonah, but loved him and told him to preach, too.