Not long enough ago, I had an epiphany:
My attempt to embrace all of the very specifically defined and literal beliefs that surround me in my faith community was actually preventing me from believing in much of anything. While I'm open to possibility, I am challenged by certainty. I'm a skeptic by nature, tending to reserve judgment until I can see or experience things for myself. Many times that works for me, but sometimes it gets in my way.
I had to find a way to move forward in my spiritual journey that would, well, keep me moving forward. With a new approach, I was able to plant seeds of faith in much more fertile ground. Spiritual understanding began to blossom.
I realized, for example, that it didn't matter if I believed Jonah had been swallowed by an actual whale. Or that, perhaps, Jonah had been swallowed by a metaphorical whale of pride or fear. Or even that Jonah existed at all.
What mattered was that I grasped how we can hold ourselves back from doing what we are inspired to do. That it is possible to overcome what holds us back. And that when we follow through on our inspiration, the results may not be what we expect and may involve a new lesson we need to learn.
If someday I happen to meet a man named Jonah in a place called heaven and he tells me about the time he was literally swallowed by a whale, I will think, "Well, I'll be."