Jonah Project 23

Jonah 2:5 

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 

In Jonah’s prayer in the dark, he tells of deep troubles we face in this life. Putting these into questions, Jonah asks: What threatens me? What deep troubles surround me? What wraps around my head to enslave me?

What threatens me?
I saw a list recently of the safest cities in the U.S. for natural disaster, and also the most dangerous cities for the same.[i] Corvallis, Oregon was the #1 city in the U.S. with lowest risk for natural disaster, while Dallas, Texas was #1 for city with highest risk. The little coastal village where I live, though not a metro area, would make the second list as one of the most at-risk places to live in the U.S. for earthquake/tsunami, the type of disaster that hit Indonesia and Japan in recent years. Many such threats can engulf our lives, causing us to feel unsafe, insecure, or keeping us awake at night with a gnawing sense of dread. What kind of threats eat into your sleep? How do you deal with your fears? Where do you go to find peace and security in the face of such threats?

What deep troubles surround me?
We are all immersed in something. The past two months, I’ve been lap swimming at our local pool, training for an upcoming sprint triathlon. I’ve learning total immersion swimming, what is also known as splashless swimming.[ii] This unique approach to freestyle stroke in the pool is to glide through the water without much fuss, a contemplative approach to swimming. I’m not very good at it, but when I get into the zone of total immersion swimming, I find that I’m using less energy and enjoying the experience more while I swim further and faster. Same thing holds true in language learning. The best way to learn a new language us through immersion, by surrounding our life with this new language so we eat, work, play and sleep surrounded by the sounds of this new language. What surrounds your life? What is the “water” you are immersed in? What deep troubles surround your life right now? How are you learning to use less energy, become less exhausted, and enjoy your life experience even in the face of such deep troubles? What language surrounds you right now?

What is wrapped around my head to enslave me?
“I can’t quite wrap my head around this.” We use our heads to try to figure stuff out, by wrapping our thoughts around complex matters. Sometimes, there is just too much to figure out, and the “seaweed” gets so wrapped around my head that I feel like I’m drowning. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of America’s favorite aquariums, features a Kelp Forest aquarium, a 28 feet tall “underwater forest—one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world.” Viewers of this amazing tank get “a diver’s-eye view of sardines, leopard sharks, wolf-eels and a host of other fishes as they weave through swaying fronds of kelp, just like they do in the wild.[iii] What is fine for a scuba diver is death for someone who cannot swim, like Jonah, who got tangled up in seaweed before he was consumed by the great fish. Like Jonah, there are more than enough ways we get tangled up in this life. What entangles you? What enslaves your life right now? What has wrapped itself around your head making you feel like you are drowning? What temptations keep wrapping themselves around your life to entangle you? Martin Luther spoke about temptation in this way: You can’t keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can prevent them from building anest in your hair.”

Photos courtesy of Thomas Robinson.
See Thomas’ online photo gallery at www.zoomdak.comMonterey Bay Aquarium photos 

[ii]See Total Immersion Swimming
[iii]See the Montery Bay Aquarium “Kelp Forest Live WebCam” at Monterey Bay Aquarium Kelp Forest Cam

2 thoughts on “Jonah Project 23”

  1. David, a very thoughtfully written post, and very contemplative. The questions you posed really made me think. Particularly the ones about what deep waters are surrounding me currently. What you wrote about learning total-immersion swimming sounded like peaceful waters (correct me if I am wrong!) whereas darker, more dangerous waters (like fears) can also surround us. I would say I have some peaceful and some rough seas in my life, and your blog post today made me think prayerfully about them. Thank you, many blessings, Laura

  2. Laura, thanks for the wise comment. Yes, I've found it much easier to "swim" in that "spashless" contemplative way of total immersion swimming when in peaceful waters, but I do believe it possible to learn to "swim" in more turbulent waters with a quiet, centered focus, with less exhaustion, less energy spent, and more joy. This is the contemplative way of spiritual living; not easy to learn, but with good and wise mentoring, and patience in the training, we grow into such a way of peaceful quiet even while surrounded by darker, more dangerous waters. Blessings to you too!

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