Jonah was likely a very great prophet. I dare say that among all the prophet-judges of the era, he was exceptionally skilled at his job. He walks into town, and people smile and cheer. The Israelites supported him, appreciated him, and he felt like he could tackle anything, however unexpected, that could ever happen there.
Of course, as a prophet he would know that it was not his merit that had filled his life with such grace and blessing. He recognizes that it is God who delights to give good gifts to His children.
He's looking forward to another week of wonderful work that is almost more rewarding with every effort he exerts into it.
Then God says, "Go to Nineveh."
Jonah asks, "Really, God? Are you sure? Well... It's just for a few days, right?"
And God says, "I will let you know."
Jonah shrugs; for the sake of this story, he hasn't really heard much about Nineveh. How bad could it be?
Day 1—Oh dear God, this is not what I signed up for. Did you see the authorities having to arrest an unruly man? How can anybody spend six hours just screaming? It scares me that every "house" I have visited so far has a huge dent in the wall—big enough for a person's foot or head sometimes! God, all I can do is sit here. I can't even talk to these people. It's like we don't speak the same language. I am just a placeholder. Can I go back to working in Israel tomorrow?
Day 2—Seriously, God? You want two more days? I could cry right now. This is a waste of the gifts you gave me. Yeah, sure, I have started teaching again... Trying to... Out of boredom, more than anything. Still, God, if I wanted to be the resident preacher in Nineveh, I think I would have asked to be sent here, right? I simply cannot see how in the world I can be the least bit effective, and definitely not as effective as I was back in Israel. In Israel, I could give the people answers and they would listen and heed; in Nineveh, the people not only do not trust me, they don't trust anybody but themselves! Like the person who was convinced that following my advice would get him into trouble, or the one who was so convicted about absolutely nothing that he spent the entire day wailing about how sorry he was and would not hear any encouragement to the contrary! God, I can still hear his cries in my head! This is doing nothing for my sanity or my usefulness. Don't you want me to be useful, God?
Day 3—Okay, all right, fine. This has gotta be the last day, right? I am back to just sitting. Good grief, it has been a hard day. So many intense fights! People screaming at each other—how can they think that this behavior is okay? In what universe does screaming and cussing out the other person get what you want? These people have no concept of cause and effect, no desire to behave well. I have stayed this long, Lord; doesn't that count for something? Can I be done now?
Day 4—This is not the sort of work I should be getting paid for. Please just send me back to Israel! Just for one day! I miss it, God! I know that I have been filling in where all they need is an extra body... But God, I never intended to just be "an extra body." Surely You understand that I am worth more than that! Today was especially hard because I hear the Israelites are asking about me. And I was so looking forward to celebrating with them tomorrow! God, this is Your last chance, okay? Please let me go back! Today was just AWKWARD.
Day 5—Wow, a whole week has gone. It has been really hard, God. But today wasn't so bad after all. And I see that You weren't trying to purge me of anything or chastise me for a fault of some sort that incurred my week-long stay in Nineveh. All I had to do, God, was be willing to function on Your timetable. Because I really don't know for sure whether suddenly I will show up to work and there's no message for Israel, You're sending me somewhere else. The point is to pour just as much investment and energy no matter where I am working, because my professional responsibility is still the same level. Thank You, God, for the opportunity to learn that.
In case you were wondering, yes—this whole scenario is a reflection and allegory for my own week in "educational Nineveh"—a place I would never volunteer to go at any point in my career, a place where learning is just an annoying thing that the staff is trying to force upon kids whose every thought is toward playtime and pleasure.
From first grade to twelfth, not a one of them seemed to consider actually getting smart and having a career as a viable goal. They all had mental, psychological, or behavior disorders that required medication. Their only thought was "survive the day at any cost." Why waste one's life trying to figure out what costal landforms were valuable to eighteenth-century traders? That is not survival skills. Why do math? It just keeps getting more difficult, and that's why we have calculators, right?
All the "incidents" described above are references to actual student behaviors. It was dragging, it was polar-opposite to the job I wanted to do... But at the same time, it was still work, and my presence—however inept—was still very much appreciated and filled a need that no one else apparently had a mind to. And I dare say I might have enjoyed some moments at some points during the week. All by the grace of the same God who gives me grace for a "normal" workday. I am still myself, no matter where I am working, and He is still Himself. I can still give it my best and depend on Him to direct the events of the day.