Viola silently crept from her cabin on the ship. All passengers had been warned to stay below deck as the ship battled an angry storm. She was the captain’s daughter and knew the ship had survived many violent storms in the past. Tonight this storm seemed different. It was as though the sea god was shaking the ship like a beggar shaking his near empty pouch to find a coin to buy one last loaf of bread. Viola could hear her father yelling orders to his crew.
“Throw the cargo over! We cannot keep afloat like this. Maybe if we lighten the load, we will survive this beating.”
As the crew began to drag the cargo up the stairs from the cargo hole, Viola eased closer to the cargo hatch. She heard Jake say to her father, “Captain, there is a passenger asleep below deck next the olive crates. We cannot wake him up.”
“What, asleep during this storm?” The captain descended the steps into the cargo hole with Viola close behind. The captain nudged the snoring man’s ribs with his foot. As the man stirred from his slumber, the captain recognized him as the man who said he was running from his god when he boarded the ship. Captain Ormar asked, “How can you sleep at a time like this? You should be praying to your god to spare us. Everyone else is crying out to their god. Who are you?”
The man stretched as he sat up. He rubbed his eyes and sighed, “My name is Jonah, son of Amittai. What’s going on?”
The captain glared at Jonah. “Can you not feel this torment we are in? This is the worst storm we have ever encountered. Only a miracle will save us. So start praying!”
Viola hid behind a crate near the hatch and watched as sailors drew close to the captain and Jonah. Marc, the second lieutenant said, “Let’s cast lots to see who is responsible for this catastrophe. The smallest stone is the guilty one.” One by one the men began to draw stones from the pouch Marc extended. Marc drew the last stone since he held the bag. The men lay their stones on a nearby crate one at a time. Jonah laid his stone last. Viola gasped as she realized Jonah’s was the smallest.
“What does this mean?” she thought.
Lt. Marc asked Jonah, “Who is your god? Where do you come from?”
“I am a Hebrew. I serve the God who created the land and the sea. And apparently this storm.” Jonah answered.
The sailors began to mumble, “What have you done?”
“Why did you get on our ship?”
“Why are you running from God?”
Captain Ormar silenced the men and turned to Jonah. “What should we do with you to get your God to calm the sea?”
“Just throw me overboard into the sea and it will become calm again.” Jonah replied.
“Father, no, you cannot do this. He will die.” Viola ran from her hiding place.
“Viola, what are you doing here. You should be in the cabin where I told you to stay. You are not safe here.” The captain reproached.
“I know, father, but I wanted to watch the storm. You cannot possibly think of throwing this man into the sea. He will die. Can you not weather this storm like the others?”
Jonah stepped forward, “Mistress, I will not drown. You see, my God gave me an assignment and I really didn’t want to do it. So I ran way. At least I thought I had. He knew where to find me and I cannot run from him. I must do His will. It is my fault the ship is in this storm.” He turned to the captain and said. “I am ready.”
“My daughter is correct, I cannot just toss you into the sea. Your blood would be on my hands. We will row back to land.”
As soon as the words left the captain’s mouth the ship pitched forward and groaned. Viola fell against a large stack of crates. She screamed as she looked up to see the top crate tottering towards her. Her father pulled her to safety and said, “Lord, please do not let us die for killing this man by throwing him into the sea.” He gestured to his crew to take Jonah above.
Viola ran after the men watching to see what would happen. She was so afraid Jonah would not survive. She reached the deck just as the sailors lifted Jonah over the rail and let him go. The sailors turned their backs as they watched Jonah’s flailing limbs hit the sea. The sea became instantly calm. The sailors became afraid and started to make sacrifices to Jonah’s God.
Viola stood silently watching as Jonah bobbed up and down in the calm waves. She wondered how he would survive. Surely a God who could instantly calm a sea could keep a man alive until he swam to shore. As the ship began to pull further away from Jonah, Viola heard a loud splash. Suddenly the largest fish she had ever seen rose from the sea and swallowed Jonah. Viola watched as the fish took a dive and began swimming in the opposite direction of Tarshish, their original destination. “May your God save you,” Viola whispered as the fish disappeared from sight.
I know this is an unusual hope story, but oxforddictionaries.com challenged me with the phrase “not a hope” and “not a chance”. Jonah tried to run from God’s purpose for his life. Of course, Viola is fictitious and not in the Bible, but I wanted an eyewitness account of what happened on that ship. Jonah was sure he was going in the opposite direction of the plan. Viola and Jonah learned a valuable lesson, you cannot run from God. If you try, your only hope for survival is to throw yourself overboard from the mess your life has become and cast yourself at His feet. He will turn things around.
This story is inspired by the book of Jonah Chapter 1.
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9