God Told Jonah
| by Kelly Ribera |
When I had a baby all I ever heard from anyone else was that I would feel enormous, incapacitating love. A love unlike anything I’d ever experienced. When he was born I did feel that way. My whole world quickly became insular, by choice and by incident. He was born in the fall and as the weather got colder, we “hibernated”. I lost myself in the haze of motherhood. I was laid-off from the small company I worked for and lost myself even more. I allowed myself to question the path I’d taken in life, the gigantic mound of student debt I could never pay off because I’d chosen a career that wasn’t exactly lucrative but one that I was passionate about, and the world I lived in now: a human being that I had created and birthed that relied on me and his father entirely.
What no one told me about was that incapacitating love, for me, is instead at times incapacitating fear. Every day is a great unknown. I feel fear because I don’t know how my career path, the thing I’ve been focused on for most of my life, will pan out. When I read the news I absorb and hold stories of terror, people hurting people, people hurting children, lives that are extinguished at random- every story sits in my gut and makes me feel out of control. I cannot control the future. I want so much to believe that everything happens for a reason, but how can that be true? As I watch my son grow I am in awe of how smart he is, how beautiful, how trusting, and I feel a combination of pride and love. But for some reason, deep down, I can’t stop feeling scared of all the uncertainty. I know that I have to rid myself of this because the last thing I want to impart to him is fear.
My son has a little book that arrived, a stowaway in a sack of train books that my husband picked up from Freecycle. Our son loves this story. It is a tiny version of Jonah and the Whale, a flip book of Old Testament horror with a happy ending. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah runs as far away from the voice of God as he possibly can. He jumps on a boat to get away but he can’t ever get away from God. He is thrown overboard and promptly swallowed by a sea creature. Only until Jonah comes to terms with his resistance and with his fear does he decide to do what he is supposed to do, and only then does he achieve his true purpose.
People, the same ones that talk about all the love you will feel for your baby, also say that you become a mother the moment your child is born, but I believe being a mother is something that develops all the time. It often brings you to your knees as a human. It is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It has changed me utterly. But it has also taught me so much about who I am and who I hope to be- the things that are unchanged that I foolishly hoped would change simply by having a child, and the strengths I hope never to lose. You cannot hide from yourself when you become a parent, you cannot get away from who you truly are. The biggest lesson I am learning daily is that I am not in control. Being completely in control of my path is all I’ve ever wanted, and that will never happen, it will most certainly never happen now that I have a child and that is okay. The love I feel is brighter than all the fear that hides deep down and that love should dictate every move I make. I cannot hibernate like we did when my son was so young. I cannot live in that whale’s belly forever. The world we live in is better than the fear, it just has to be.