We are all Jonah in many ways. Like him, we resist the callings and invitations that would stretch us beyond our limited worldviews and beliefs about who is worthy of God’s love and liberation. Our egos cling tightly to the identities, cultures, and ideologies that make us feel chosen and secure. But the path of spiritual growth requires us to undergo our own version of Jonah’s descent – to be swallowed by the circumstances that challenge and undo our previous way of seeing the world.

These devouring, disorienting experiences can feel like deaths, stripping away the false senses of self we have constructed. Yet they are crucial for our rebirth and transformation. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, we must sit in the darkness and let go of our grasp on controlling the narrative. These are humbling times that reveal the paradoxes and contradictions within us – the ways we are both blessed and broken, both righteous and complicit in suffering.

In these periods, our anger and grief must have their say as our idealized self-images shatter. We rage at the injustices we’ve ignored and the violence we’ve justified under the guise of being on the right side. The story of Jonah gives us permission to honestly name these difficult emotions as necessary for moving towards solidarity with the marginalized.

As we express our anger as lamentation, our hearts begin to crack open to a more transcendent truth – there is no insider or outsider when it comes to Divine Love. We realize our “chosenness” is not meant to exclude but to extend compassion to all who are suffering, including the uncomfortable truth of our own woundedness.

Like Jonah under the relentless sun and wind, nature’s rhythms of loss and renewal burn away what is false until all that is left is our most essential being. Here we discover a belovedness that extends to all people and creation itself. Our worthiness, and that of every creature, is from the start – a free gift of Grace rather than something earned. From this place, our callings become clear – to pour out the mercy we have received, indiscriminately, and to join God’s work of restorative justice and healing for the whole human family.


The Book of Jonah is a satirical story that challenges religious exclusivism by depicting a contemplative, Jonah, who resists his calling to preach God’s love to the Ninevites out of fear of his own potential. The path of descent he undergoes, being swallowed by circumstances, is crucial for spiritual growth through letting go of ego. Jonah must express his anger and move to lament and compassion, facing the paradoxes within himself to attain wisdom. Experiencing nature’s cycles teaches about impermanence. The story invites confronting our shadows and aggression, even when anger is justified. Ultimately, true “chosenness” means realizing all are beloved by God, whose love is free, universal, and extends even to the unlovable, breaking equations of human deservedness. God’s merciful love shakes up myths of insiders and outsiders.

Key Points

1. The Book of Jonah is a satirical story that challenges religious exclusivism and the idea that God’s love is limited to one group or nation.

2. Jonah represents the contemplative who is called to take action in the world, even when it challenges his worldview and beliefs.

3. We often resist our own potential and calling out of fear, like Jonah resisting his call to preach to the Ninevites.

4. The path of descent, of being “swallowed” by difficult circumstances, is crucial for spiritual growth and letting go of our ego.

5. Anger and sadness must be felt and expressed, as prophets move from anger to lament and compassion.

6. Facing the paradoxes and contradictions within ourselves is necessary for attaining wisdom.

7. Experiencing the cycles and seasons of nature teaches about impermanence and not clinging to any one state.

8. The story invites us to confront our shadows, limitations, and aggression, even when our anger is justified.

9. True “chosenness” means realizing that all are chosen and beloved by God.

10. God’s love is free, universal, and extends even to the unlovable – breaking equations of deservedness.