The Anti-Hero isn’t a modern invention, thousands of years ago Jonah was the Anti-Hero of his own story. An inspired story in the pages of scripture, no less! Jonah’s story is in the Bible to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ask if our hearts reflect Jonah’s twisted heart for the world or God’s compassionate heart.
God, the Hero, speaks first in Jonah’s tale. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me,”[i] God directs Jonah. “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish”[ii] (in the exact opposite direction, over sea instead of over land).
“Arise!” we hear for the second time in the narrative from the godless captain of Jonah’s boat as the ship is pounded by the relentless sea. The captain shows the depths of God’s prophet rebellion when the pagan directs the Jewish prophet to “call out to your god!”[iii]
Into the dark sea Noah is tossed and swallowed by a great fish. Following his repentance he is spat out onto the ground. And the Hero returns, “Arise, go to Nineveh,” he repeats, as if to make sure that Noah has no doubt that his mission has not expired.
Are you stubbornly refusing the call of the Hero of your story? Where is he calling you to arise to? God is calling you to move. For many of us, we are docked on our couches. We need to move. We need to arise. For many of us, even though we walk into our workplace every day, we hunker down, put our head down, and disengage from our coworkers.
It’s easy to hear the call to “Arise” and functionally opt out. It’s not so much that we refuse to go, we just don’t opt in. Our lives are magnificently structured to push back at this call. Everything about our lives screams “Sit, stay” not “Arise, go.” We sit and stay instead of getting up. The inertia of life pushes against this call. The force of the couch and the television is strong.
We even use our personalities to opt out of the call to arise. As someone who falls on the introverted side of the spectrum it’s healthy that I know that I’m energized by time alone, by reading books and working out. But that can serve as a ready excuse, where I pull back from others and don’t press into the lives of neighbors and friends as I’m called.
We live isolated lives. Who spends time on their front porch any longer? Chairs on our front porch are just decoration. Our automatic garage doors are ingenious inventions that protect us from having to have a conversation with our neighbors. We share fewer communal meals. Fewer conversations. Faces exchanged for screens. We stay.[iv]
Since we’re in a new neighborhood, we’ve been trying to greet every new person who has moved in. It’s funny how people respond to their doorbell being rung. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has a great bit about this.[v] 20 years ago when your doorbell rang, you responded with joy: “it’s company! The whole family went to the door.” Nobody looked to see who it was, you just opened up the door. “I was in the neighborhood, I thought I might stop by.” Today, everyone freezes and hopes they go away. These days when your doorbell rings you assume it’s either someone selling something, someone trying to get your signature for something political, or a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s a lot different than it was even when I grew up. Our world is built to protect us from other people. We have back patios with fences, not front porches with an extra rocking chair for a neighbor.
Even our homes are built to “sit and stay” not “arise and go.”
It is going to require work, effort to transform what has become so ingrained in how we live. It’s going to be hard to arise. We need a reason. We won’t put down screens and choose people out of sheer will. What will cause us to arise is when the person we are arising to go toward we care deeply about. When our reflects the care God has for every human being.
Who are those people who God is calling you to arise and go toward? Think of one or two or three names. Not groups of people, but individuals God has placed in your life. And arise.
Walk over to your neighbor who you wanted to bring brownies to when they moved in, but that was a year ago and now you’re embarrassed. And bring them those brownies! They’ll still love them. Invite your cubicle mate over for dinner. Listen. Learn about their family and about their background.
Photo credit: Blake Wheeler/Unsplash
[i] Jonah 1:2
[ii] Jonah 1:3
[iii] Jonah 1:6
[iv] In Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, which is now 17 years old, he reported the rapid decline in social engagement in clubs, family dinners, and having friends over. He reports decline in attendance at club meetings: 58%; family dinners: 43%; having friends over: 35%. http://bowlingalone.com/