Job, Midway, Twitter

My friend, Job

I wrote a paper about him once, that Job, a long, long paper on a teeny, teeny bit of the text. I wrote it for Carole Fontaine, who is a wonder. I loved writing it. I loved Job and his struggle and his humanity and the exegesis and the old part of the story and the expanded part of the story and analyzing the meter of the poetry and the way Job argued with God.

Which is hilarious, because I am *so* disinclined to have the argument directly with God myself.

Job One of my church members (Hi, Laurie!) is the librarian at Bangor Theological Seminary here in Portland, and she brought me this old card, now on the scrap paper pile, that came across her desk recently. 

In some ways I'm sitting on the scrap paper ash heap right now, scraping myself with the pot shards, looking back to that crucial year on the library card, wondering why I wanted what I wanted, and why I decided what I decided, and why I asked for what I asked for and, mostly, where God was in all of it.

Job did not hesitate to give God his opinion, even when his friends warned him against it.

Yesterday on Twitter, I asked whether it was okay to be angry with God, and of course people responded in the affirmative: people who know me in real life, people who have been blogging friends for five or six years now, and people I only know in the Twitterverse. They raised the Psalms and Job as examples of human outcry toward God when the situation seems unbearable, and unjustifiably so. 

Other sources, of course, justify those circumstances. We hear it from Jeremiah this week, for instance:

Thus says the LORD concerning this people: Truly they have loved to wander, they have not restrained their feet; therefore the LORD does not accept them, now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. (Jeremiah 14:10, NRSV) 

That sounds more like what I learned as a little Baptist girl. No, really, let me state that more clearly. I learned it as a Very Good Little Baptist Girl, or one who attempted to be that anyway. But life as an adult, life as a divorced seminarian mother of three was more complicated than anything I had ever imagined, and I yearned for companionship, which I believe was fairly human of me.

It may be that I wandered, that I did not restrain my feet. I did so in an attempt to make things come round right. Maybe I needed to learn that coming round right need not be so tortured. Maybe I needed to learn that coming round right really is just about turning and turning until you get to the place where you can see God and feel Love and know Joy. 

For Job it comes at the end of a long haul. It comes with friends who sit with him but also give terrible advice. It comes with an urge to put God on trial. It comes with an answer from a whirlwind, and a defense of those friends, and we, the readers, know that Job was a good guy all along. I'm a little dissatisfied with God, to be honest, and the way HE is portrayed in Job. I like the sweeping expanse of Creation version of God, yes, but I don't like the whole dysfunctional family dynamic that suggests if we give God a hard enough time, we'll get somewhere. That's the direction Jeremiah heads, of course. Oh, God, are you really going to abandon us? We are so, so sorry!!!

I have to think that's human despair speaking. When we're turned the wrong way, we can't hear God. We can't see God. We can't apprehend God in any way.  

So keep turning, that's my thought for the day. Keep turning. Job did, and sooner or later, he came round right. I'm glad to know him.

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(This could only be considered an excursus from the lectionary, but here's a link to the full Jeremiah reading, one of the alternates for this coming Sunday.

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9 thoughts on “My friend, Job”

  1. I missed your tweet yesterday, but my reply would have been an emphatic “Of COURSE it’s okay!” Far better to be angry and say so than to pretend you aren’t and drive the anger inward, causing depression.
    My father has said he wants Job chapter 40 read at his funeral.

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  2. With MaryBeth I will try to be the kind of friend who listens. Yes, I’ll weigh in on those who affirm anger at God. God can take it.
    Much love to you.

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  3. I’m kind of a fan of Mrs. Job myself.
    I’ve had more than one person tell me that “God can take it” — “it” being what can only be described as unadulterated fury on my part. God seems to be doing fine.
    And now in the past several months it’s been my pleasure (not) to discover the descendants of Job’s friends among my nearest and dearest. God help us all.

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  4. Oh, aye. I’m wrestling with the Angel of Angry right now, too.
    I’ve loved Job’s faithful, angry questioning for a long time, but only from afar–as if that kind of anger-at-God could only be fully embodied by a “biblical superhero” like Job.
    Anger fits in with my image of what it means to be faithful, but it doesn’t fit in with my image of what it means to be ladylike. Now I’m trying to negotiate the space between “nice church lady” and “fully-embodied woman of faith.” Ouch.
    Thank Heavens for all the foremothers and soul-sisters we can call on to sustain us as we walk across the coals!

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  5. Oh heck, I suppose I think he/she fully expects us to be angry. It’s part of our humaness really. As Annabel said, it’s much healthier to just let it rip and then calm the soul than to hold it all inside. Sending love and warm hugs to you today.

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  6. I was 15 when I heard Rev. James Noel preach at the Montreat Youth Conference that the answer to “Where was God when this horrible thing happened to me and I was crying?” is “God cried too”. It was the perfect thing to tell the youth, and I think it’s a perfect thing for us grown-ups, too.

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