Teaching from the Trees: Seeking Solace

I have to admit, I am not sure that I knew the rest of the story of Jonah before my second year in seminary. After Jonah is saved from the big fish, he follows what God originally asked him to do and goes to Nineveh. After he shares the message from God (which isn’t a happy one), he leaves and sit above the city. God brings him shade and shelter in the form of a bush (or maybe a fig tree). As he sits there, Jonah is awaiting the people of Nineveh’s response to the message from God and God’s response. Will God destroy the city of Nineveh? Will he get to see the destruction from his vantage point?

Jonah sits in the shade of the bush seeking solace. I have a sneaking suspicion that he actually wanted to watch the destruction of the city rather than the salvation of the people of Nineveh. (Ironic isn’t it that Jonah was granted a second chance, but he wasn’t all that keen on offering the people of Nineveh a second chance!)

He sits and watches and waits for a whole day and nothing happens. The next day, he gets up and goes back to his waiting spot only to find out that the bush that had offered him shade from the blazing sun had withered and died. Needless to say, he was upset! How was he supposed to find solace without the shade of the bush?

In that moment, God says to Jonah, you are worried more about the bush than you are about the people of Nineveh. And he was. He was seeking solace that he was called to be somewhere he didn’t want to be and called to deliver a message he didn’t want to deliver. In the shade of the bush, he was able to seek solace, but when the shade disappeared.

Trees and plants remind us that life is short. Leaves fall and branches wither even as quickly as one day. Whether we want to notice this or not, the trees are reminding us that we have but one life to live and we don’t know how long that life is. How will we spend our day(s)? Will we hope for the destruction of other people or will we seek to be gardeners of new life?