Saturday, September 19, 2009
Just Call Me Jonah
Last year I wrote several posts putting down volunteerism in general. After being very involved for several years volunteering in different arenas, I decided to take a firm stand and do absolutely no volunteering while I had a newborn at home. I really felt comfortable and free, and it became easier and easier for me to say no.
Somewhere along the line I started to get my energy back, and to feel I could take on more challenges. I guess it was around the time we started actually sleeping through the whole night. My youngest was about 18 months old then. It took about 6 months to catch up on all the sleep I had missed, and by the time she was 2 I felt ready to take on the whole world again.
I signed up to teach my daughter’s 8th grade Catechism class, and have been reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church over the summer, in addition to the regular textbook. I picked the earliest Saturday morning slot because I didn’t want it to interfere with softball or cross country after school, or softball games later on Saturdays. I was lounging in the pool or on the beach for half the summer, and the whole task of getting ready for this seemed pretty daunting to me, when I got a request to do something else in addition to this.
Back when we were homeschooling, I helped to teach a Little Flowers group for two years. Little Flowers is meant to be a cooperative effort, with all the mothers taking turns teaching about the saints that little girls should emulate, and the coordinating virtues they should acquire. It is a well-organized program with lots of room for games and friendship time.
My friend was very interested in this program and, know I was experienced with it, asked me if I would consider heading up a group at the church. I told her I didn’t know if I could take on something else right now. I kept hedging all summer, but never really said no. While in Tennessee I decided I would come back and say I just couldn’t do it right now.
The day after I came back, my friend called and asked if I had proposed the program to the church yet. “Umm, no, I thought we were going to talk about it first,” I said, and before I knew it I was in the office of the new Director of Religious Education selling a program that I loved, all the time actually hoping he would say no. “God’s will be done,” I thought, “If He really wants me to do this, it will be approved.”
I was so mad at myself for being so persuasive. Within a day the program was approved by the DRE and pastor, with a room reserved for me through March. (That I made perfectly clear: I am busy with baseball after March.)
I was telling all this to a friend over lunch yesterday and she said to me, “What, are you waiting for a whale to swallow you up? You sound like Jonah!”
Then she gave me several ideas on how to make this a cooperative effort, which is exactly what Little Flowers is meant to be. “You don’t have to be a one-woman show,” she said. I admitted I really don’t enjoy doing crafty things with 12 little girls who need help with gluing or threading needles. The actual teaching and organizational stuff is what I love.
I don’t want to be like Jonah, sitting under a withering gourd in the desert sun, cursing God for the task he was sent to do. I think the lesson of Jonah is more about attitude than anything else. He obeyed God but didn’t enjoy it. We are called to “be cheerful in all that you do”.
By the way, I don’t know why everyone got it into their heads that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. (They also think Adam and Eve ate an apple, when the Bible just says it was a piece of fruit; perhaps it was a pomegranate.) The Bible says he was swallowed by a “big fish”. Whales are mammals, not fish; perhaps it was a great shark.
Chapter 2 (NAB)
But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
From the belly of the fish Jonah said this prayer to the LORD, his God:
Out of my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me; From the midst of the nether world I cried for help, and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea, and the flood enveloped me; All your breakers and your billows passed over me.
Then I said, "I am banished from your sight! yet would I again look upon your holy temple."
The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me; seaweed clung about my head.
Down I went to the roots of the mountains; the bars of the nether world were closing behind me forever, But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD, my God.
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; My prayer reached you in your holy temple.
Those who worship vain idols forsake their source of mercy.
But I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you; What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the LORD.
Then the LORD commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore.
Painting by Buarnarotti Michelangelo. "Jonah", 1511.