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Imagine how it might have been with Jonah.
The last sight lingering in his eyes was a bobbing ship, stormy skies, pelting rain, and the fear-struck faces of the sailors who threw him into the water. Splash!
On the surface it grew strangely calm, but for Jonah the storm never stopped. His storm was inside!
“Don’t try to swim! It’s all over! Go ahead and inhale the water and let it be over with. Don’t fight. Don’t try to swim. That would only prolong the agony. You know what is going to happen! My ministry is over! It’s a great big flop! My dreams are a crumpled empty shell.” His whole life replayed itself before him, then he passed out!
Suddenly there was a quick motion. Something surrounded him. He was conscious of slippery cold flesh. Things grew even darker. Jonah was pushed along a narrow passageway by an invisible force. Then into a larger cavity. Air! Gasp. He inhaled heavily.
He opened his eyes. “My eyes don’t work! I’m blind!” Motion sickness overwhelmed him. Vertigo! Muscles tightened around him then relaxed. He was inside a giant washing machine. Sea weeds wrapped round his head and all around his body. Water kept sloshing into his mouth, trying to work its way into his lungs. Jonah spat disgustingly and coughed to clear his windpipe.
“Where are my clothes? Oh, well, there is no one else here to see me.” He passed out again.
He was startled awake by a sense of turning. He lost all sense of direction. His stomach retched out its contents, then went into dry heaves. All the has-been food was floating around him. He screamed but there was no sound. He passed out.
“Oh, God! I’m still alive! Let me hit my head on something and knock myself out!” But everything around him was soft.
A couple of small fish slithered between his legs. He shudders. He grabs one and squeezes it to deathly stillness. “What for? Don’t know. Can’t stand not knowing where it will slide by next!”
II. TO HELL
“Oh God! I’m living in Hell! Let me die!” His mind reels. There is no category for this experience.
His skin begins to crawl. He gags, retches. He imagines the color of the green bitter bile that stings his mouth, spits it out, and it oozes all over his face. He passes out again.
OoooOOoooh! His skin is becoming raw. Weeds twist around his arms and legs. He squirms to find a less painful position. Stomach muscles tighten around him. No way to get comfortable in here! Pass out! He wakes with a shudder.
“Horror! How long will I live in here? I’m certain to die, but how long will I suffer these nightmares? Gasp. Heave. His consciousness blinks out.
Oxygen deprivation does its mind-altering worst. Phantasms terrify him. Shudder.
His life review passes before him again. He can’t stop the play from rolling. Everything he ever did plays and replays. Every harsh word. Every kindness he ever received. Every time he neglected his family. Every time he prayed. Every occasion when he went to the temple. He passes out, delirious.
The Psalms take on new meaning. The language of David and of the other prophets comes out of his mouth over and over again.
2 … I cried … mine affliction unto the LORD …
he heard me; out of the belly of hell …
thou heardest my voice.
3 … thou hadst cast me into the deep,
in the midst of the seas;
and the floods compassed me about: (pause)
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