DO you remember the story of Jonah found in the Bible? I was telling it to my young daughter recently. God had directed Jonah to the city of Nineveh. But Jonah instead slipped away on a ship bound for Tarshish. When a storm imperiled the ship, Jonah had the crew cast him overboard because he believed his disobedience had caused the danger they were in. Then a great fish swallowed him. Jonah prayed for deliverance, and the whale deposited him on dry land. Once again God directed him to go to Nineveh. This time he obeyed.
I had always considered this great fish part of Jonah's predicament. But my daughter said, ``Daddy, the whale's his friend, right? It saved him from the water!'' How true! The whale had protected Jonah as he struggled with his own thought.
Don't we too need a shelter of sorts as we work out some of life's more serious issues? Questions of honesty, purity, obedience, fidelity, surface throughout our lives. They are really moral and spiritual demands made by God, our Father-Mother. They require greater growth on our part.
From my daughter's point of view, Jonah's great fish was a bit like Noah's ark. In Noah's case, he willingly followed God's direction and built the ark. And it protected him when the rains came. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes the term ark from a spiritual standpoint as ``safety.... God and man coexistent and eternal.... The ark indicates temptation overcome and followed by exaltation.''
Because he coexists with God, man is sinless and pure. As God's spiritual image, he's responsive to good alone and to the direction of God's loving word. This is our own true selfhood. It's natural, then, for us to cultivate the spirit of the Psalmist's words ``O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.''
God's law demands much more than a ceremonial acceptance that doesn't stand up well when tested. God's law requires us to accept it wholeheartedly. Small moments of effort to follow His law grow into days and years of steady spiritual progress and an expansive happiness. There are struggles. But God's love always shelters us, regardless of the storm's strength.
Christian Science can help us find the spiritual perspective in our lives through its teaching of the unbreakable unity between God and man. The emphasis of this Science on moral and spiritual growth, versus mere material progress, is the basis for proving that inseparability.
I have a friend who is sincere, kind, and hard-working and who has loved the Bible from an early age. When he was single, he found it fairly easy to live with himself. After marriage, though, he discovered a number of areas in which he needed to make moral and spiritual progress. With the closeness and day-to-day interaction of a family, he couldn't put it off any longer.
At first, this made him feel about marriage the way I first felt about Jonah's great fish -- that it was a constraint! But then he realized he had been entertaining some wrong ways of thinking. Family life served to expose all this, it's true, but it also provided him with the love and support he needed as he confronted through prayer the sin that he had accepted as his own.
His prayer and study of the Bible and Science and Health have brought steady progress. He's grateful for his marriage and family life. As was true of me, what he had once thought was part of the problem was actually part of the solution!