During my prayer and meditation time this morning I revisited the very short but powerful book of Jonah from the Old Testament. To recap the story, Jonah is commissioned by God to prophesy and preach to a city filled with immorality. But instead of following the commission Jonah runs away and boards a ship. While he’s on the ship a big storm comes and while everyone is throwing things overboard to lighten the load, Jonah goes below the deck to sleep (again hiding). Interestingly the men on the ship cast lots to determine which among them brought the storm. The lots reveal that it was Jonah, so the men confront Jonah and he admits that it’s his fault the storm has come upon them. He then suggests in a defeatist manner, despite the men suggesting he pray to God and make things right, that they simply throw him into the sea and let him die. The men reject Jonah’s defeatist line of reasoning and try their hardest to row to shore, but the storm gets worse and finally they throw Jonah overboard, pleading to God as they do, “Please don’t punish us for this man’s issues with you.”
Then, as the story goes, Jonah is swallowed by a great fish and is held inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights (a sacred number sequence related to death and rebirth). During his time in the fish, Jonah finally prays and sorts things out with God, promising he will no longer run from God’s calling, at which point the giant fish vomits him onto dry land. Without hesitation, Jonah then goes straight to the city and prophesies to the people there about changing their ways. The people are receptive to the power of Jonah’s message and God takes mercy on the city and decides not to act on the warnings Jonah had given them. And here is where the story gets really interesting. Jonah actually gets mad at God for showing compassion! He gets mad that he will not fulfill the prophecy of destruction on the city and so he takes off angry and moping. He literally camps outside of the city, watching to see what will happen, in a kind of callow impatience.
While he is sitting there in the heat of the Sun, God sends a vine to grow and shade his head. Jonah is of course very happy with the vine, but then the next day God sends a worm to eat the vine and then a hot wind on Jonah’s face. Jonah once again says, “just kill me.” And God replies, “Do you have any right to be made about the vine?” Jonah insists, “I DO! I’m angry enough to die about it.” The book ends with God saying, “You have been so concerned with this vine though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. Yet the city I sent you to has 120,000 people who cannot find their right hand from their left, and many livestock as well. Should I not care about them too?”
So what does this story have to do with our current astrology? Well, if there is one phrase I’ve found suitable for retrogrades it’s the phrase I grew up hearing in church over and over again, “Not my will but thine.” Another way of putting it is, “surrendering to whatever the outcome might be.”
This Mars retrograde has the feeling of that same kind of holy commission that Jonah received. Whether we’re canvassing neighborhoods for a political candidate, arguing for our philosophical or religious point of view, or taking on an exciting new project, Mars in Sagittarius speaks to the idea of a holy quest, mission, or crusade. And this mission is all the more important right now, as signaled by the co-presence of Saturn in Sagittarius, the square from Jupiter in Virgo, the Sun exalted in Mars’ home sign of Aries, with Mercury and Uranus in Aries, and the fixed star Antares (a red mars like star) sandwiched between Mars and Saturn. The celestial headline reads something like, “GO GET IT!” And the simple point is that the story of Jonah offers us a few simple guidelines for working with this energy intelligently.
One–you cant run or hide from a sacred calling or mission. So don’t try because even if it’s scary it tends to be harder if you deny the calling of your heart and soul than if you simply go for it.
Two–once you take up the calling or mission, you can’t be too attached to the results, and you can’t let yourself be bitter or angry if the vision doesn’t play out exactly as you want it to.
So for example, if you’re struggling with inaction, passivity, fear, or anxiety, “I don’t want to do that it’s going to be too hard,” then you might need to step up and have more courage and faith. You can do this! Now go get it!
On the other hand, if you’re going after something so hard core that you’ve forgotten your allegiance to the author of all outcomes, to the divine power that placed the motivation and drive in your heart in the first place, then stop and check yourself. Is this about you, or is this about aligning your will with something bigger?
We don’t have to be Christians, or even fans of the Bible, to get something good out of the story of Jonah. Callow impatience for results, callow resistance to taking action…either are immature extremes that speak to an inability to humble ourselves before the divine at the exact time when the divine calls to to participate in something special, something whose final outcome is almost never as important as the call and response itself.
Prayer: Make us instruments of your peace, love, and purposefulness in creation.