Ever been Swallowed by a Whale?

Last week I spent 20 hours focused on helping to teach an online storytelling class in which we had students from eight nations living on four continents. This was a privilege! But, the week felt pushed…

  • Monday’s class was followed by a drive across town to my physical therapy appointment. I love these as I am getting to know my doctor, my new brother Caleb.
  • Tuesday was followed by an intense three hour meeting with clients plus other work.
  • Wednesday after class, a work meeting bumped up against when I needed to leave for an in-person consultation. I left late for a drive estimated to take over an hour. I had forgotten to bring water, was talking to a friend on the phone as I drove and he noted, “Oh, is this what Brian looks like stressed?” It is amazing how what we create in our heads can hijack our emotions! Of course, it all worked out.
  • Thursday another work meeting followed class and I left late for a 2:00 pm appointment followed by a 4:00 pm client appointment. After those appointments, I headed to the bank arriving just prior to closing time. A teller named Bel helped me.

Bel exuded understanding. “You look nervous,” she observed. I laughed and admitted I was for spending money on a car when there are no guarantees on its longevity feels nerve wracking.

“You don’t want to carry around a pile of $100 bills. How about we do a cashier’s check for part of the amount and give you the rest in cash.”

“You are so helpful. Thank you,” I told Bel with her brown eyes, dark hair parted on the side with a flower in it and wearing white Hawaiian print dress. We decided on a cashier’s check for $5000 and $1250 in cash. Our nephew had found what looked like a great Jetta for $5500, but then the car lot had texted they had another newer one as well for $6250.

I got home and made cookies to take to Karen’s mom the next day.

On Friday morning, we had no class. Instead, I got to talk to my good friend in England in the early morning, then had a phone conversation with a client while driving to my naturopathic doctor for my next series of PRP injections. My shoulder is recovering and regularly in less pain, so this series of injections caused massive, aching discomfort. Imagine, pain is a signal I am healing! I drove another 30 minutes to meet with a work friend for lunch, dropped in to see Karen’s mom, now 96, I took her some cookies

and then headed to VanDoozer’s car lot on SE 82nd to look at a used car they had advertised. Karen met me there.

I met Jennifer with her daughter Zoe who was running the lot that day. Jennifer with her long blond hair, tanned tattooed skin, and sleeveless shirt and white shorts was a relaxed and calm person. And Zoe, at 6, was a conversationalist.

“Are you getting this car?” Zoe asked as I sat on the black leather seat in the advertised white, 4-door Jetta and started the engine. “Well,” I told her. “I don’t know yet. That’ is why I am trying it out.” “Well, it looks nice and you should buy it,” she said, confidently. I laughed. Clearly, she has hung out with her mom some this summer.

As I heard the engine, I knew. It ran worse than the car I was getting rid of, smelled like cigarette smoke, and with its tinted windows felt like it had been used for drug runs. Definite no. Zoe, disappointed with my decision, headed back to the office to play.

By then Karen had arrived and we took the white 2013 Jetta out for a spin. As we drove, I kept trying to convince myself, “This car would be fine.” I felt badly for Karen having driving over an hour to join me on the lot and felt like I needed to get something. The engine sounded great in this car. But it had issues, like the automatic door-locking system re-locked the back door after every stop, three times in sequence! On the drive, Karen was quiet. I probed and she said, “This car isn’t you, it’s got issues and to tell you the truth, feels sad.” Per usual, Karen nailed it.

As we got out, we saw a Subaru next to it. Karen loves Subarus. We test drove one. It had transmission problems. We were going to leave when Jennifer said, “You know, we have another Golf on the lot. Do you want to try it?”

She pulled out this 2-door, red VW Golf. The sticker said $7499. This was way over budget, but I have always wanted a red VW. We drove it. It felt great. The only issue was the AC wasn’t working. Jennifer dropped the price by $1000 with a discount and our trade in and then knocked off another $200 for the AC issue. At $6300 it fit with the cash I had with me. I drove away in my new-to-me red car, I’ve named Hank.

The weekend stayed full with a big family dinner at which we hosted our daughter’s boyfriend’s family on Saturday night, we both preached in different places on Sunday and then prepped the house for the arrival of our daughter and two grandchildren on Monday. We were up until 11 pm moving things around, getting toys and activities out.

By Monday, when my class resumed, I felt winded. We practiced five-minute stories, which is learning how to bring a story into a regular conversation, to allow a discussion of the story become part of the conversation.

When in a breakout room with Doug, he asked me “Have you ever been swallowed by a whale?” Obviously, he wanted to bring in Jonah, but his question struck me. Of course, thankfully, I’ve not been swallowed by an actual big fish, but as I reflected on the week, I realized how circumstances can swallow life and had swallowed mine. I told him this and realized as we talked, it was in the big fish Jonah had been restored to God. He had met God in the middle of the swallowing experience.

Ever been there?

Perhaps God allows and uses the circumstances of life to simply get our attention. May He have yours.

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