Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm23:6
Disney/Pixar’s animated movie Finding Nemo is the story of an overprotective father fish who loses his son. If you’ve never seen it, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it.
In one very Jonahesque scene, Marlon (the dad) and Dory (his fun but forgetful friend) are terribly lost in the ocean looking for their way towards Nemo (Marlon’s son). Dory calls over a whale (she speaks whale) for directions. The whale quickly scoops them up in his mouth. Marlon is panicked, fearing that they have been eaten by the whale. He tries everything he can in his own strength to break through the whale’s baleen (teeth). It’s useless.
Marlon and Dory find themselves clinging to the whale’s tongue, when the whale tells them to move to the back of his throat and let go (remember Dory speaks whale). Marlon can’t let go. He thinks the whale is going to swallow them. As the water in the whale’s moth slowly drains out the situation grows more and more desperate.
“It’s time to let go” Dory cries. “But how do you know something bad won’t happen?” Marlon yells back. “I don’t,” says Dory.
Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He may have asked the same question of God, “How do I know that something bad won’t happen?” “You don’t, Jonah,” Might be God’s reply.
Jonah was holding on to something and it was time to let go. He held on to his self- righteousness. The thing about himself that he knew made him able to cope with life. Jonah’s self- righteousness was rooted in his religion and his race. Marlon’s self- righteousness came in knowing he could keep Nemo safe (which he couldn’t). Jonah’s self-righteousness came in knowing that God must be wrong about using him to save Assyrians.
For Marlon, Jonah and you it comes down to trust. Marlon had to trust the whale and Dory. Jonah had to trust God too. But there’s a difference in these two stories. Marlon loved the object of his quest (Nemo). Jonah had no love for the object of his quest (Nineveh). It’s hard to trust God, or even hear what God is saying, if you don’t love what He loves.
How do I love what God loves? You remember that “Surely His goodness and mercy is following you all the days of your life…” (our Fighter Verse). He has relentlessly pursued you. He loves you so much and will never give up on you. And He even started that pursuit when you were His enemy. And today when you don’t trust him and won’t let go of the whale’s tongue, or when you don’t trust him, and don’t even like Him, and try to run to Tarshish, He still chases your heart. Each and every moment of each and every day, God is asking you to trust Him.
Marlon and Dory had to let go. Only then could the whale shoot them out of his blow hole towards Nemo. Jonah is much more complex a character. He obeyed, but didn’t really let go.
What part of your self-righteousness do you need to let go of today and start trusting Christ as your only hope of righteousness? Look ahead of you, that’s Jesus (the true Jonah) leading the way. Look behind you, that’s goodness and mercy pushing you towards Him. Now you are ready to do the impossible. Now you can do what God is asking of all of us- love what He loves. And pursue it fearlessly.