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The Belly of the Whale

"For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights." - Matthew 12:40

Jonah was on a boat fleeing from his task when the storm struck.  When it was clear the storm would tear the boat apart, the members of the crew gathered together to try and figure out what to do.  Jonah knew he was at fault and he knew that everyone's lives were in danger because of his choices.  He told them to do what he could not.  He told them to throw him overboard.  They resisted, but after he insisted they complied.  The storm ended and the boat and crew were saved, but Jonah was swallowed by a great fish.  This terrible situation is where we get the saying "in the belly of the whale".  

In the Hero's Journey, this is often placed at the beginning of the great trials.  In the story of Jonah, we are told that he was in the belly of the great fish for three days.  In that place of darkness, he found the courage to do what he had been called to do, and then he was spit out on the shore to continue his journey.  For Jonah, this was a place of transformation.  This story represents the dark place of our internal being when we face difficulty on our adventure and the transformation that comes after.  Jesus recalled this story as he approached the cross.  He remembered that Jonah was in the darkness for three days, but afterward, he came out a new person.  This story gave Christ strength as he prepared for the darkness of the tomb before his own transformation.  

Last week we looked at the first threshold where the Hero takes the first physical step beyond their normal world, but this stage is calling for the internal to match the external.  These are the times in our lives where we are physically on the journey, but our minds and hearts are not in it.  Sometimes it takes a place of darkness and despair to align our minds and hearts with our embodied reality.  

Take a moment today to reflect on the places where your mind and heart have not yet aligned with your embodied reality.  If you notice any grief or shame there, be gentle with yourself and understand that this is part of the process.  Celebrate the fact that you are doing hard things and trust that your heart and mind will get there soon.  Know that this darkness is a cocoon, a place of great transformation.    

God, help us to align our hearts and minds with our embodied reality.  Give us strength and courage for the journey.  Help us to endure.  Lift us up when we are weak.  Use every tear and every moment of suffering to prepare us for the new self you are creating in us.  Let us be new creatures, made new and formed by your hand.  Amen. 


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