In the Belly of the Whale

When I was in my junior year at college, an event shook our small campus. A girl in my dorm--someone whom I knew, but didn't know well--left a note for her boyfriend and slipped out of the dorm one cold night in late January. When her disappearance was noticed the next morning, students and police began to search for her--on campus and off.

Bus stations were checked and merchants in the small town were questioned, with the thought that perhaps she'd just gone somewhere for a while to escape the pressure that she seemed to feel. She had been seen at an all-night convenience store in the small town near the school, but hopes started to fade when one of her shoes was found at the edge of the large, flood-swollen river that bordered our campus.

The school that I attended was a small one with just over 700 students at that time, and so this crisis had an impact on all of us. Prayer vigils began at the local church, and small groups of students also met privately to pray that--despite the ominous clues--she would be found safe and alive. One evening a small group of friends gathered in my room for the same purpose.

As we began, I reached for a Bible, and it fell open as I put it on my lap. I started to close it until I realized that it had opened to the small book of Jonah....

With a sense of dread, I read about Jonah being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, and in that moment, I knew that there was no need to search bus stations for this troubled girl. I knew she had drowned, and I also knew when she would be found.

Sadly--on the third day after her disappearance--searchers located her body a couple of miles downstream from where they'd found her shoe. She had been in the river for three nights and three days....

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