"Oh, no!" shouted Dan as he and Suzie were sitting at breakfast. His Dad had just broken the news. Dad and Mum had to go and visit their uncle in Yorkshire who was very ill and there was no alternative but Dan and Suzie should go and stay with Aunty Do and Uncle Paul in Wales.
"Why can't I stay at William's house?" Dan complained. But Dan's Mum explained that William's Mum couldn't have them as William’s sister had chicken pox. So there was no escape. A whole weekend with Aunty Do and Uncle Paul in Wales. Nightmare!
The days dragged that week as Dan and Suzie waited for the weekend. The plan was that they would set out for Wales early on Saturday morning. Dan was getting more and more angry about the whole thing and by the time Friday came he was fit to burst! There was no way that he was going to go to stay with Do and Paul, Anyway they weren't his real Aunty and Uncle, just Mum and Dad’s boring friends. He didn't care what his Mum and Dad said. Although he hadn't seen them for a few years now, he had never really forgiven them for the time when they had come to stay and everything that he did was wrong and everything that Suzie did was right. "Don't touch that .... Don't hurt your sister....Let her watch her video" There was no way he was going to stand a whole weekend of that.
So Dan began to form a plan. If he could hide somewhere on Friday night then they would have to leave him behind and then he could go and stay with William after all. The boy in "Home Alone" had survived OK without his parents! It was a really stupid idea but he wasn't thinking straight.
So on Friday when Dan had finished his supper, he told his mum he was tired and that he was going to go to bed. The truth was he wanted to make his get away. He thought that he could sleep the night in the tree house and then hide until the car had gone. It never crossed his mind that once his Mum and Dad realised he had disappeared they would send out a search party to find him!
So Dan said good night, throwing in a few yawns for good measure, and headed off to his room. He got together a few things in a backpack including his sleeping bag and waited till everyone else was occupied. Then he sneaked out the front door. It was as easy as falling off a bike and soon he had disappeared into the woods opposite the house. It wasn't quite dark so he decided to stash his stuff in the tree house and go for a walk up the shopping street. Of course all the shops, except the chip shop, were shut and it was a bit spooky really but Dan pulled his hood over his head and walked down the street. After all he didn't want to be recognised and have his cover blown.
As he stood looking into a travel agents shop, he started to think about what he was doing. What would happen if his Mum or Dad went into his room tonight? What would happen when they found him gone in the morning? As he looked in the shop window he saw the sign. "Get away from it all". This reminded him of the story of Jonah in the Bible.
Jonah, was a prophet, one of God's special messengers, and he had been told by God to go and give a very important message to some people in Nineveh. Dan remembered how Jonah was so annoyed about being told to talk to the Ninevites that he decided to catch a ride on a ship going in the other direction to Tarshish, a town in Spain. After all Jonah didn't fancy taking to some of his arch enemies. It would have been like a Liverpool supporter having to cheer for Man United!
Running away was the start of big problems for Jonah. You see God wanted Jonah to do what he had said but Jonah thought he could run away from God. As Jonah tried to sleep it off in the bottom of the ship and forget what God had asked him to do, God sent a storm to wake him up. In the end the sailors were so afraid of the storm they had everyone praying, and that’s when they asked themselves: "Where's Jonah?".
Dan thought again about what he was doing. What would his Mum and Dad think? What was God thinking? After all it wasn't Dan's Mum and Dad's fault that they had to go off to Yorkshire, and Aunty Do and Uncle Paul probably weren't all that bad. Then Dan looked in the window of the shop. He could see his own reflection in the glass.
He saw another advert, this time for Wales. "Special offer. Three days in Wales." Looking at the advert reminded him of what had happened to Jonah, how he had been thrown off the ship and ended up in a huge fish. Dan started to laugh "Oh, no Jonah ended up in Whales for three days too!".
Then Dan realised how foolish it was to try and run away. In fact not only was he foolish, it could have been really dangerous. He turned away from the shop window and started to hurry back to the tree house. He remembered how when Jonah was inside the whale he had thought about how foolish he had been and had said sorry to God for trying to 'do a runner'. Dan too felt a bit ashamed and sorry for thinking about running away.
As he passed the fish and chip shop the smell of fish and chips was wafting out the door. He thought about Jonah when God made the fish cough him up on the sea shore. Jonah must have smelt a bit fishy after his three day stay. It's funny, Dan thought, but running away can often leave marks on people. He remembered how in the local high school, one of the boys there had run away and got into all sorts of trouble. Dan thought he had better get back home quickly.
After getting his stuff out the tree house Dan wondered how he was going to get in to the house again! He could try and climb through the window. But Jonah had learnt to say sorry so Dan thought he might as well knock on the door and try to explain. But when his Dad answered the door he was on the phone. In fact Dan had only been out about an hour and his Dad just thought he had been out playing football! So Dan simply said "Hi" and went off to bed!
Next day they set off for Wales. Dan kept having pictures in his mind of his Aunty and Uncle dressed as Ninevites and Dan being “spat” out of the car on his arrival smelling rather fishy. He also imagined that when he got there he would spend the whole weekend telling them to stop doing the terrible things they were doing!
His Mum noticed he was a bit quiet and said "What are you doing Dan?"
He just replied "Thinking of Whales, Mum." Of course she thought he meant W ALES not WHALES!
When they arrived, Dan tried to put on his best smile as he got to the door. But when it opened he couldn't believe his eyes. The people who answered the door were the wrong people! Well they were the right people but they weren't the ones Dan had expected. Dan had been thinking of the wrong Aunty and Uncle!
When they went inside Dan was taken to his room for the weekend. It was full of football posters, some of them really old ones. It was amazing! As Dan found himself alone for a minute, his mind went to Jonah and Nineveh again. Jonah had expected no one to listen to the message he had to bring but when he arrived he got a big surprise. Not only did the people listen, they were even prepared to change and do as God said. Dan thought about how he had expected the weekend to be awful and how different it was turning out! Like Jonah he had totally misjudged them. Dan found himself saying "Sorry God and thank you" quietly to himself. He was really glad that God was far more patient with him that he was with others.
Dan ran down the stairs and was greeted by his Mum and Dad and Do and Paul and the "sea monster", his sister Suzie.
Paul started to tell Dan how he planned to take him to see a football match in the afternoon while the girls went shopping. Paul’s son was in university and Dan was using his old room while he was away.
Dan walked round the garden while his Mum and Dad chatted. He had certainly had made another of his Amazing Discoveries! How silly he'd been, just like Jonah, first all thinking he could run away, especially from God and secondly about his view of what it was going to be like doing what he had been asked. Dan remembered that even after all God had done Jonah was still miserable, but Dan was going to learn his lesson and enjoy a great weekend.
Then he heard Paul calling for him to come in for dinner. Dan couldn't believe it when he sat down and found it was fish and chips!
Copyright Steve Harris