The sea is teeming with millions of creatures that we just don’t need to know about when we accidentally swallow a gallon of ocean water. It’s kind of like being licked by a dog, but at least when you’re in water, it somehow seems cleaner. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t usually order the plankton and algae special with a side of seaweed. It might be palatable with ketchup, but I always seem to forget my condiments when I go swimming.
Every child must learn the hard way to keep their mouth closed when they go under water. This concept was especially difficult for my daughter to grasp. If she is awake, she is talking. On many occasions, she has been hit by a wave in mid-sentence, only to earn a mouthful of salt water. She takes a brief moment to gag and choke, and then the soliloquy continues. As she once said, “I wouldn’t want to be a cow, because then I couldn’t talk.” Forget standing in manure and being groped for milk at inhuman hours; it’s the limited vocabulary that would be torture.
It took a while for my kids to adapt to swimming with scuttling and slithering sea life. I always enjoy their outrageous questions, which are inevitably screamed for the entire beach community to hear.
- “Are these things dead?” …A handful of severed crab legs.
- “Something just bit me!” …A crab with legs still intact.
- “This looks just like the jellyfish we saw at the aquarium!” …Time to go home.
- “Is that a shark fin?” …No, just a rare sea creature called the “Snickers Wrapper.”
And then came the enlightening question that cleared out half the swimmers in thirty seconds…
“Hey! Do seagulls poop in here?!”
My children frequently ask questions by drawing back their bows of innocence and piercing my heart with the flaming arrows of their insight. One day my five-year-old had ventured out deep enough in the water to make himself worry. He was not worrying about drowning, however. He had far too profound a thought that was weighing heavily on his soul. His small voice barely sailed to me on the wind.
“Can God hear me from way out here?”
For a moment I imagined how frightening it would be to lose connection with God. But then I remembered Jonah.
Jonah had disobeyed God and suffered the consequences by being hurled into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. Children’s books always show Jonah sitting on the massive tongue of a whale. This never would have happened, since the fish actually swallowed Jonah. (Plus, the other creatures would have harassed the whale mercilessly for having a pierced tongue.) That means Jonah would have been in the more unpleasant regions of the fish’s digestive system, if you catch my drift. No turn-down service or mint under the pillow.
Even without five-star hotel accommodations, Jonah still had a wireless connection to God.
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”
I can’t get my cell phone to work in the back of the grocery store, but God heard Jonah from the innards of a giant fish. Talk about impressive coverage.
After Jonah’s fervent prayer, God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. What a ride; one that I have yet to see at a water park. Even on my worst day, I have never had to be rescued by body surfing a whale’s lunch. I’m sure Jonah would have preferred a helicopter replete with Navy Seals, but a rescue was accomplished nonetheless.
Can God hear us, even from the depths of the sea? Yes, He can hear us from the ocean, the tunnel, and even the frozen food section of the supermarket. He can always hear us, even from the belly of a fish.