We had only been married for a short time when my husband's engineering company relocated us from Toronto to St. John’s Newfoundland. During the last leg of our road trip to what would be our new home, we experienced snow, rain and fog that often swallowed up all signs of life outside the car windows. We were told later it was a normal occurrence in Newfoundland.
One of the perks of the new job was that my husband could pursue his love of sailing at the local yacht club crewing for members who had larger boats than our sixteen-foot dinghy. I was invited to come along and looked forward to the opportunity to see some of the outposts I had only read about in books.
During the first leg of our excursion, we enjoyed sun, brisk winds keeping all hands on deck and trimming sails. Until that is, I first felt and blinked away tiny beads of moisture turning within seconds to a dense curtain of fog. As it thickened, the wind all but disappeared leaving us only the occasional muffled sound of the mainsail and jib flapping against the mast.
Soaking wet I was about to locate the stairs down to a small galley to get warm when we all heard a loud thud. Near my feet, still, with its head bent at a crooked angle was a small bird. A disembodied voice said, “It must have been lost and tired and thought we’d be its safe haven, poor thing.”
Before I could reply I heard what sounded to me like someone taking a deep breath. Then I felt the air all around us vibrate and a whoosh was released by a whale near where I stood. The watery spout and wake of the whale’s thrust up out of the water before disappearing away from our sailboat were so profound no one spoke for a few minutes.
The Newfoundland fog and my close encounter with the whale make me think about the first chapter of Genesis. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2 ESV).
The Hebrew word behind spirit is “Ruach” meaning “air in motion” and the same word for breath. When I come across a scripture passage in the Old or New Testament about the spirit, air or breath, I often think of a whale. What I find so intriguing is this word in Hebrew can also mean life. It is through one's breath that our words take form. No wonder the opening lines of the book of John are so powerful. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.”
I can relate to Jonah's encounter with his whale in the Old Testament. I have spent periods of my life believing I could run away from a God who I know full well inhabits all of me and all of creation because, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Jonah survived the ordeal because God had prepared a place in the storm for Jonah to survive. This is the key take-away for me during this time leading up to Easter. Like the story of Jonah, the Holy Spirit breathes and propels me to a place of safety in every storm motivated by a sacrificial love.
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Halleluiah!
Ramona Furst lives in North Bay, Ontario with her husband and two black Labrador Retrievers. When she is not writing or painting she is in the bush hiking or on Georgian Bay kayaking.