Artist's Lane: Avoiding being ‘whale done’


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

Isolated — and still getting into trouble. An island unto myself, I am staying at home, social distancing from the world, outside of the occasional virtual meeting. Yet one thing remains: I haven’t learned how to keep my mouth shut.

“There’s a reason you’re you.” That was a line I heard from a movie that reminded me that its OK to be me. Thankfully!

I told our son about a recent video call. “I think I have become an Isaiah-with-a-message. Or, maybe I am just running through a virtual sea with my buttocks showing.”

Our son said, “It’s probably the latter.”

I heard myself tell the Tuesday night prayer group, “I’m sorry.” Then, after a brief moment, I spoke again and said, “No, I’m not sorry, and I’ll take it to my grave.“

I’m not usually so emphatic although I felt I needed to take a stand when asked a question recently. It was something that came from our group leader, a Messianic Jew who shared that congregations are “updating” the Torah. She asked us all what we thought. 

Without skipping a beat, I voiced my opinion and managed to come unglued during the delivery. “No,” was the operative response — something I should have left alone until I knew more.

I didn’t wait to understand the question that I was being asked. Nor did I consider the word selection used. My only comment, as I expressed to those on the video call, “Don’t touch the Word of God.” 

In a world of change, there are some things that don’t — God and His Word.

Something else that doesn’t change: the line I walk. I had, however, assumed that someone was questioning if the first five books of the Hebrew Bible should be changed. I would later come to know that wasn’t what was being asked.

When did God appoint me the keeper of the universe? He didn’t. We are told in Deuteronomy not to add or take away from the things that we are commanded to do. 

In this case, I interpreted a question, then rushed to share my view. 

I realized this when someone told me, “You sure are hard on everyone.”

Maybe I am. I’m hard on myself, too. Time is short and the world is getting darker and darker. First, unrest. Now, fear. In the mix, believers are falling away. We shouldn’t act surprised. The New Testament tells us over and over that there will be those who depart from their faith. 

Could it be triggered by someone wanting to change something of historic record from over 2,000 years ago? Maybe it is triggered by me not listening, assuming someone is jumping off the written page without clarifying intent. 

Jonah did the same thing. Well, he didn’t jump off the page, but he was thrown off a boat. He was told to go to a people who were waiting and willing to hear from him. His response? To run in the opposite direction as fast as he could. He missed the most important part of the message. People were “waiting” and “willing.” They weren’t equipping themselves for battle. 

Had I become a Jonah, positioning myself for a fight instead of opening a door for a meaningful discussion? Maybe I had set someone up for a fight, not taking a minute to see an opportunity for exchange. 

I stand by my convictions, but perhaps I need to wait until they are breached before rushing into the water like a battleship. 

Final brushstroke: As Christians, we are called to be messengers. By action, that means to be absent of judgment, to deliver a message in a way that can be received. How important it is to conduct ourselves with the same mercy and grace afforded to us. Otherwise, like Jonah, we will find ourselves in deep water or worst yet, “whale done.”

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