I can relate to Jonah. I don't think I'm as cranky as he was (Beloved Husband might disagree), but I do understand his reaction when he was told to go to Nineveh. "I don't want to go to Nineveh! Hmmm ... Tarshish is nice this time of year."
Everybody has a "Nineveh." For a long time, becoming a priest was my "Nineveh." I had a lot of great excuses, but God kept coming back when I least expected it and stayed on me about it until I gave in. Fortunately, no big fish were involved, but it was my "Nineveh" nonetheless.
A big part of it was fear of the kinds of things priests have to face. The thing that scared me most was being with someone facing a tragedy like a sudden death, death of a child or a terminal diagnosis. Once I was ordained, I knew at some point I'd have to face this. Clinical pastoral education helped me face some of this and learn how to cope, but you never master it.
Last week, I had to go to "Nineveh" with the folks at Calvary United Methodist Church. On Monday, we had a huge 50 car accident on South Mountain just west of our house. Two people were killed - one was a prominent member of Calvary. Lori Shipley had been the church council president, sang in the Gospel Choir, taught the middle school youth ... she and her husband been involved in everything. The next morning, retired Judge Herbert Rollins died after battling cancer. Two huge funerals back to back on Friday and Saturday. Later that week, we had another member die ... she'll be buried on Monday afternoon. In addition, two other Calvary members lost close family members last week.
Nobody wants to go to their personal "Nineveh" - whatever it is. But I've learned from Jonah and last week that God gives us what we need to get in and out of our "Ninevehs" alive. Jonah had good reason to fear going into that great city ... the people had a violent reputation and he was bearing some bad news from God. I know I haven't mastered this whole pastor thing in times of crisis ... but God will make sure I get out of it alive.