“Jonah, Jonah, Wash Ashore.” Fiction. Based on a True Running Away.

“Passing the pages of tales I don’t want to re-live. Yet, they’re so gratifying to read.”


“Jonah, Jonah, Wash Ashore.”

Fiction. Based on a True Running Away.

By Leanna Glenn Markham

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.

Did fear alone drive Jonah
onto the ship that bore him
away and away from God,
from the one assignment
he could not, would not do?
Was it with trembling
that he asked his shipmates
to toss him into the roiling waves,
evidence of God’s displeasure?
Or…did he grasp for relief,
from the pressing weight,
hatred worn like a helmet, that grew
heavier year by year when
he recalled the unthinkable?
Images of twisted, tortured bodies,
Jonah’s own blood kin, lying
in destruction and disgrace.
Why would God, the good, just God,
send him to these beasts?
He could not go.
Perhaps if he ran,
he could outpace that
sense that God stood near,
unmovable amidst Jonah’s own frantic sprinting.
I know the story,
The man volunteered for a watery grave
only to find not a tomb
but a living subsurface rescue station.
A fish that served as submarine,
rehab, and worship center.
A psalm poured forth amidst the digestive juices
of the divinely appointed creature.
The spewing up of man on sand
proved the act of mercy for the fish
as well as for Jonah,
both quite done with each other.
Man perhaps ready then to face man,
to walk the streets, to declare
the message to his enemy.
He could no longer doubt
God’s presence, nor His
intent to speak to Niniveh
with Jonah’s salty voice.

It’s far from the same thing,
the assignment You gave me years ago—
To listen, learn, and write one man’s story.
I went, I listened. I feared.
I flattened my hands, sitting on them,
sitting hard, sitting long.
Fearing those people.
They wouldn’t like it.
They wouldn’t like me.
They expected a best seller.
Or for me to make something
magnificent, profound, life-changing
when I had so little to work with.
I’ve started, stopped, and developed a distance-runner’s
endurance for the job.
I didn’t think I could come to the end of the earth.
It isn’t really flat, doesn’t really have an edge to fall from.
Until you get there.
And here I am.
I’ve run out of running space, God.
And I’m tired.
You have told me that You’ve given me
everything I need for life and for doing what You ask.
I’m turning around, going back.
Facing the impossible,
more weary of fear now than afraid.
Starting to hate what has kept me sometimes running,
Oftentimes idle.
Wash me up on my shore.
Set me on my path.
You have given the words.
I will send them out.
In Your mercy,
You have rescued me
For this moment,
For these people.

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