Jealous of Nineveh

Sometimes, I feel a little pang of jealousy towards the people of Nineveh.

Today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-10) is the story of Jonah’s travels through the city of Ninevah (before the whole whale-incident). God tells Jonah to go to the city, walk through it (which took 3 whole days of walking, big task in and of itself) and to tell the city to repent of its evil ways. Jonah’s like, okay God, and sets off. He’s only a day’s walk in, proclaiming that the city will be overthrown if they do not repent, when the king hears of Jonah’s proclamation and declares a city-wide fast and repentance.

When I read that, I get a little jealous – perhaps nostalgic is a better word – of the simplicity of that time. In summary, here’s what happens.

People sin —> God sends messenger —> Messenger says repent —> People repent.

What a clear sign from God, right?

When I meditate on this passage, I wish sometimes that my life was that easy. Say I’m stuck in a particular sin. There’s no messenger coming to my door, knocking and saying, “Hey Hannah. God wants you to stop sinning. Okay, bye!” There’s also definitely no immediate reaction of sackcloth + ashes from me. (In addition, there’s not a political ruler telling me to repent, but that’s somewhat beside the point.)

It seems like life would be so much easier if it worked like that nowadays.

No, when I sin, I’m stuck there, without a friendly messenger to prod me along. Perhaps you are, too? You sin, and then keep sinning, and maybe get yourself to confession, and then find yourself falling right back into the same sin. It can be disheartening.

And then I think to myself: well, maybe God is sending me specific signs, telling me to repent. Am I missing them? How do I go about searching for signs from Him, if I don’t even know what I’m looking for? Should I be worried about this? Do other people worry about this?…and on and on it can go.

I do think God is still sending us signs – they’re perhaps just not as blatant as those in Jonah’s time. We might just have to spend a little more time and effort looking for them.

This Lent, I’m trying to do just that. I’m spending more time reading Scripture (the daily readings, which are a very easy place to start!), and more time in mental prayer. I want to know when He is sending me signs, and I also want to not worry about it so gosh-darn much.

God sends us signs in ways appropriate for our day and age – just like Jonah was appropriate for the people of Nineveh. They didn’t have Facebook groups to keep them accountable for Lent. They didn’t have the opportunity to read the Scripture every day, or even have it sent to their email box if they so choose. They didn’t have a Pope, giving recommendations on ways to grow in holiness during Lent, accessible by a simple click. Heck, they didn’t even have the majesty and humility and the grace of Jesus on the cross.

Perhaps my jealousy is a little out of whack. Perhaps it’s time for me to own up to the day and age I live in, and know that God is sending me signs – it’s just a little more my job to look for them.

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