The Nineveh Principle

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I don’t believe in the doctrine of predestination, that God has an absolute plan for every moment of your life down to what necktie you’ll choose to wear today. I’m an artist. I know that God sculpted into me that spark of creativity that is an adventure of exploring possibilities, and I have no doubt, that is a reflection of his own image. She’s not going to tell me someday, “Nope, it was a farce, I was pulling your strings the whole time. And you thought you had free will!”

However, I do believe that God may on occasion call you to a particular task for which you are well-suited, even if you don’t know you have the required skill. God says, “One day, there’s going to be this kid from Wapokeneta who is destined for great things, but he’s going to need a bit of inspiration. Who do I have available, let’s see… Yeah, Jamie, that’s it, and you’re going to convey that inspiration in a graphic novel. Ha, and your teacher thinks you drawing funny pictures is a bad thing…”

So Jamie goes on his merry life, has himself a wife and kids and sells office furniture, but if he listens to that tug, that God Nudge, he also continues to draw funny pictures and one day a graphic novel will get published and that kid from Wapokeneta will read exactly what he needs to hear, and go on to cure emphysema. Jamie never even knows he influenced that kid from Wapokeneta, but Jamie sleeps well at night and smiles a great deal of the time. Jamie is flexible. Jamie is willing. Jamie goes with the flow and life is pretty good for Jamie.

But there is a Prankster in the world, too, and nothing delights the Prankster more than screwing up perfectly good plans. So the Prankster plants the idea in young Jamie’s second grade teacher’s head to purposefully mock and belittle and devalue Jamie’s delight and ability to draw funny pictures. So when the need arises for that kid in Wapokeneta, Jamie doesn’t draw the graphic novel, has a spastic colon and explosive diarrhea, bitches at his wife, and gets demoted to selling refilled printer cartridges. And somebody else has to inspire the kid who will cure emphysema, or the kid doesn’t get inspired, and emphysema doesn’t get cured. See Prankster laugh!

So it was when God called Jonah to go to Nineveh.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, he was anti-Ninevitic — yah! a racist! — and in that case, hurried on his way to beautiful scenic Tarshish instead. God in his ire called up a big storm and when Jonah told everybody he was the cause of the storm (Jonah was also a blabbermouth), they pitched him off the boat into the sea, and Jonah gots hisself swallowed by de whale. I love that story! But what a message. Not a spastic colon and nagging wife, but three days soaking in the digestive juices in the belly of a whale. Jonah thought better of refusing to go to Nineveh. So there it is, the Nineveh Principle: there are consequences when you gum up the plan.

I don’t believe God is spiteful; she doesn’t curse you if you don’t answer a call for help. The Jonah story has a whale of a consequence in order to convey the message. But you may negate the associated rewards of the positive energy that might have been generated by performing good. Especially if you have a good relationship with the Great Artist, then faith prompts you to do good in the world. By your fruits you are known.

It might be a small thing. Someone just really needed a kind word and smile. Hell, we all can provide that. But maybe your task is to provide a kidney. Or carry a burden. Or kindle hope with a song. Whatever it is, in that moment when the opportunity presents itself, if your response is, “But I don’t want to,” then your negative energy is gunk in the lubricant.

There are times when you may have a legitimate reason for intelligently withdrawing from an opportunity. If that’s the case, then the opportunity was most likely not a call, because when God really needs you specifically, she’ll equip you to be prepared. As when Moses told God, “What are you thinking, I’m not a speaker! I can’t go to Pharaoh!” God answered, “Pick up your staff and do what I say.” If Moses could have reasoned that he had thrown out his back and needed to rest, or that he was already obligated with a prior commitment, God may have let it drop. But for Moses to just decline because he didn’t want to?  Or because the Prankster caused Moses to have an inferiority complex? I think there would have been a land-whale on that mountain.

Don’t you get sick of hearing me say it’s all about choices? But there is always a choice. So when you make that choice, consider the potential rewards, the possible consequences. And know you must live with the effects of that choice, the energy it generates into God’s universe. Some people are intent on never taking a chance, ever stepping out in faith, never disrupting their own comfort. And these are the people who say nothing good ever happens to them, that life just passes them by. And there are people who will spend tons of energy clinging to their neuroses instead of choosing to get help and move past them, because while life with a neurosis is unpleasant, it’s familiar. But passivity doesn’t breed goodness; if your intent is just to avoid effort or even confronting your own roadblocks, then you are not growing good fruits. Which is bad karma. And let’s not detour into how you might lose what you don’t use.

I live with my own Nineveh story. I witness the effects of the Nineveh Principle every day. And remember this: you might get swallowed by a whale, but you don’t have to be digested and take up residence in its poop. Choose well, generate good energy when you can, and avoid the need for muck boots.

 

This image is actually the cover of one of my favorite children’s book from the 60s. It’s a whale and illustrates the point, but actually has nothing to do with Jonah, Pinocchio, or Mother Gooseland.

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