Sometimes life feels hard. Sometimes it feels delicious, like pure grace. Often it feels like both.
I read recently about how people were always asking Jesus for a sign, a way to know what was going to happen next. Jesus evidently got frustrated with the asking and told the people, the only sign I will give you is the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29). (From Richard Rohr’s devotionals, The Center for Action and Contemplation, August 19, 2022)
If you recall, Jonah was the guy who ran from God, got swallowed by a whale and then spit out on the shore.
Rohr speculated that this was Jesus’ way of telling us that we better learn to hang on in life’s hard and messy spots; those smelly slimy places you can’t fix, control or understand, because that’s what it takes to get to resurrection and new life. I think Jesus was also telling us that no one can predict the time it takes between the whale belly time and the new life. It takes as long as it takes.
I’ve been thinking about whale belly living ever since.
I feel like we are in a similar smelly place in our local community right now. We are in an uncomfortable place in our country, obviously. We are still dealing with contagious diseases, discord and disagreements of all kinds. Almost everyone I know is dealing with personal pain of one kind or another.
And yet in that awful belly of the whale environment, grace, healing and new life still peek through.
My husband called this morning after he went to work to remind me that this is the 11th anniversary of when we found out I had breast cancer. A whole lot of belly of the whale time has happened in the last 11 years since then. But now, today, this week, I didn’t even remember, he had to tell me. I’m too focused on something else, our youngest’s wedding this weekend.
When I was diagnosed, Graham, this same son who is getting married, was 13. He was too young to have a mom with cancer. He didn’t need to be in the belly of the whale at that age.
And yet, our God is a God of healing. I re-read the Jesus Calling devotional every year from the beginning of my cancer journey: I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships…. You cannot live close to me without experiencing some degree of healing. (Jesus Calling, August 20, by Sarah Young)
And so here we are. We will be dancing, Graham and I, at his wedding reception, to Orange Colored Sky by Nat King Cole. It’s an old song about sunrises, sunsets, love and miracles. A few years ago, when Graham sang with the Aggieland Orchestra, he dedicated this song to my husband and me at a concert. We danced, with others, as he sang. My favorite line, I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine, when out of that orange-colored view, flash, bam, alakazam, I got a look at you.
Aggies don’t usually like orange things, but our family makes an exception for sunrises and sunsets. Twice a day, God shows off in a display of color to remind us that all is well and that the dark belly of the whale is never the end of the story, only part of it.
Where do you find yourself today? Is it a dark slimy belly of the whale season? A season of orange-colored skies? Or a bittersweet both/and season?
No matter where you find yourself today, the message is the same, God is Light, healing Light and all will be well. If you don’t believe me, just check out that orange colored sky.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com for more blogs, upcoming speaking events and to sign up for her monthly Inner Circle email resuming on September 1, 2022.