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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Sign of Jonah
The Sign of Jonah

Fleeing the Call 

Monday, April 3, 2023

At the CAC’s CONSPIRE conference in 2018, faculty member Barbara Holmes shared her own personal “Jonah story”: 

There is a crisis of disobedience when we choose to disobey God’s will for our lives. In this instance, I think of Jonah…. He thinks he’s right. He hates the Assyrians, and understandably so. After all, they were a marauding, land-grabbing nation, a real threat to Israel. He had national pride. He wanted to see them destroyed. When he gets the call from God, he travels 2,500 miles to the southern area of Spain. He couldn’t get much further away. Why does he flee? He flees, he says at the end of chapter four, because he knows God is merciful. There is no worse situation than a merciful God when you want to see your enemies get what’s coming to them. Jonah wants to do things his way and ends up in the belly of a sea monster.   

Do you have a Jonah story? I do. From the age of ten through my twenties, I knew I had a call of God on my life. Through dreams, waking visions, and moments of surprising attunement with the Divine, I knew God was calling me. But there I was, a ten-year-old girl, with a call to something I didn’t understand. I’d never seen a woman in ministry. For that matter, I’d never seen a woman leading in any spiritual capacity. So, what was I to do?  

Well, I went on with my life. I got married, had two children, and after a decade heard the call again even more strongly. This time I turned my head to where I thought God lived (up there) and I said, “Excuse me, sir, or ma’am”—I wanted to cover my bases—“I don’t know if you know about the divorce, but I have two children, I’ve got to feed them and ministers don’t make any money. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to law school.” [1] 

It took time, but Holmes eventually said “yes” to God’s call. She encourages listeners to remain open and faithful to God’s invitations to serve:  

As I was standing at my law school graduation ceremony, I heard a voice say to me, “This isn’t it.” I was startled, and I said to my girlfriend who was standing in line with me to get our degrees, “I just heard a voice say, ‘This is not it.’” She started laughing and said, “Well, you sure have wasted a lot of time.”… There was nothing to do but hear the whispering and continue my practices. I now allow life to lead me to the precipice of the newness that was already seeded in my life…. 

Trust God, trust Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. Make your intention clear that you will follow as called, without exception. Make your intention known to God and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead you into the fulfillment of your vocation. [2] 


[1] Adapted from Barbara Holmes, “Crisis Contemplation,” CONSPIRE 2018 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2018), conference talk.  

[2] Adapted from Barbara Holmes, “Friday Q and R with Kirsten Oates,” CONSPIRE 2021 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), conference talk. 

Image Credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, North Cascades Sunrise. Jenna Keiper, Photo of a beloved artpiece belonging to Richard Rohr (Artist Unknown.) McEl Chevrier, Untitled. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

One of Richard Rohr’s favorite art pieces about the prophet Jonah and the whale. 

Story from Our Community:

For some years now, I have felt called to a nameless spiritual path free of the obligations of a prescriptive faith. As I write this, I am surrounded by the early spring flowers and birdsong, sitting under a sprawling beech tree. It is my favorite place to pray. The church bells are ringing in the village and I feel a part of it all. Even though people may see me as being a bit on the outside, I don’t feel alone. In fact, my faith has never felt deeper. I know I am also connected to a wonderful community of others through the CAC, the Daily Meditations and podcasts. I have found deep solace and support in my journey. I am so grateful—thank you. —Zarina N. 

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