Awakening Our Own Newness In an Ancient Story

We’re always looking for the newest thing to help ourselves wake up to our lives. I search on Amazon with raised hopes: maybe there’s a brand-new book that will really open doors for me like never before! I guess I tend to associate my own desire for renewal and rebirth with newly created stuff.

But one of the things I really value about being rooted in a religious tradition/community is how it reminds me that some of the best stuff out there on how to truly care for our selves and our souls is old stuff. Some of it’s even ancient. And the renewal and rebirth comes from allowing ourselves to see it with new eyes and a ready heart.

I’d like to recommend one favorite really old story that we read in the Jewish world at this time of year. Drumroll, please…

Looking for a rollicking good read about following (and, more importantly, failing to follow) your life’s true calling? Have I got the book for you! And, it’s totally free.

I’m talking about the Book of Jonah.

Never heard of it? Here’s the gist: This guy named Jonah gets a very clear message that his life’s calling is waiting for him if only he will follow it to Point A. Jonah immediately decides to hightail it to Point B on the high seas. (Sound familiar?)

Turns out, surprise, this doesn’t work. Storms. Prayers in vain. Jonah’s thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. Once the fish vomits him out again he decides maybe going to Point A isn’t such a bad idea. But he never really does get what exactly the point is. What can I tell you, he’s a very human human.

One favorite moment in the story: Once Jonah gets onboard the ship he’s hoping will be his escape, he apparently decides that his best option is to go below and go to sleep. Such a true depiction of the creative journey! I mean, how often, when we are trying to flee from our truest calling, do we find ways to “fall asleep” and ignore it?!? And then once the storm starts raging, the captain comes down and yells at him, “How can you be sleeping?!? Wake up and cry out to whoever your God is!”

Makes me think of all the people and situations and dreams and songs that have served as wake up calls for me in my own journey.

Want more?

Herman Melville wrote an amazing rendition of Jonah’s story that you can also read for free. You can even listen to Simon Callow read it to you.

Also free (but not so ancient), is a song I wrote inspired by Jonah, called “Gone Tarshisha.”

So, what wakes you up when you’ve fallen asleep to your own purpose?

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