“Daddy, read me a story,” whispered my three-year-old daughter as she climbed onto the couch and handed me her children’s Bible. Reluctantly, I set my spellbinding textbook on the finer-points of Greek linguistics on the end table and slid her onto my lap.
“O.K., Sweetheart. What story do you want to hear tonight?”
“Jonah!” she replied excitedly.
“But, we just read that story yesterday. How about Daniel and the Lion’s Den or Noah’s Ark?” I quickly tried to turn the page to a new story, but a pair of big blue eyes looked up and me and silently said, “Daddy, I would really love to hear about Jonah again…”
I flipped the ragged pages of her Bible back to the tale of Jonah. As I read about God’s runaway prophet, my daughter pointed to the pictures and added her own commentary. She showed me the big boat, the rolling waves, Jonah sleeping and even a sailor we had affectionately named, “Popeye.” Before I could turn to the final page in the story, she stopped me for a moment to carefully study the picture of Jonah sitting in the belly of the great fish. After spending three days on the wrong side of a seafood dinner, Jonah was looking…disheartened. He was covered with seaweed; his clothes were ragged and his head hung low like a sail that had lost the wind. Then, with her brow furrowed in serious thought, Abigail pointed her little finger toward Jonah’s picture and asked, “Daddy, is Jonah in timeout?”
Of all of the scholarly commentaries that I have read regarding the prophet Jonah, my three-year-old daughter provided what I believe to be the most accurate and succinct summary of the story.
“Yep… God put Jonah in timeout…for three days. And, it worked.”
Timeout. It doesn’t have to be a punishment; it doesn’t have to be imposed by another. My daughter’s innocent question was actually an insightful reminder: no matter how many times we have heard a story, there is always something more we can discover. No matter how many times we drive down the same road or walk the same path, there are unexpected moments where new insights await. Treat yourself this week to a timeout or two and listen to God’s story — both the story told in His Word and the story being told in the world around us — and listen with the inquisitiveness of a three-year old.