Advent with the Prophet Jonah: Day 13

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

Jonah 3:5-6

One thing that has stood out to me throughout this year is how little we as a society know how to have periods of collective lament. Much as we have often been united by shared grief, there has been little public expression of this: collective frustration, perhaps, but often not collective grief. Memes comparing 2020 to grotesque flavours of chips or combusting portaloos have been more common than lament. And while there’s value in this kind of shared gallows humour, it seems we might be the poorer for not sitting in shared lament.

In particular, we do not really know how to collectively repent. Often we turn instead to laying political blame or defending our treasured positions. We are unwilling to recognise where we as a society have to share the blame – not for the pandemic, but for the greed and selfishness that was often revealed when the pandemic came, or for the failure to love our neighbours as ourselves that lay at the heart of so many tragedies and conflicts in our year.

Here, in Jonah 3, we see all of Nineveh, “from the least to the greatest”, united in lament and repentance. When does that happen in our world today? We either unite in blaming our leaders or blaming someone else – another people group, another philosophy, another country, another creed. When do we sit together in sackcloth and say that we as a society have done wrong?

It won’t cure the virus. It won’t answer every grief or fix every wrong. But who knows what it might accomplish, if people from either side of the political spectrum, from different classes and post-codes could be united in recognising that our world is not as it should be and that we must share some of the blame?

Learning to Splash

To prepare my children for a world of puddles,
I must learn myself what to do with puddles,
how to take the mud with the joy,
how to wear the shock of the wet,
how to delight in the splash.

To prepare my children for a world of shadows,
I must learn how to see the sun in the shadows,
and how to trace the dance of light,
how to marvel at silhouettes,
how not to fear the night.

To prepare my children for a world of unknowns,
I must brace myself and unknow
all this false security
we held for years before this one,
and rest when I don't know.

To prepare my children for a world of Day,
I must learn the worth of days,
and I must learn to face the night
that our days may be unafraid.

Frontline (For the pandemic teachers)

Check temperature before you leave;
Second guess that winter sniffle.

Hand-sanitiser with your markers,
Enter the ever-shifting classroom space.

Greet the students in masks.
Watch attendance, but don't be afraid.

Be calm. Reassure. You may mention the war
But know how to read the faces before you.

Keep life normal
When nothing is normal.

(Nothing will go to plan.)

Admit when you are not okay
But face the battle nonetheless.

Adapt and keep
The children safe.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.