Monday, May 14, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: the bitterness of my soul


image source: http://eff.cls.utk.edu/fundamentals/role_map_worker.htm

Looking at Job 7:1-11 this morning.

Job is giving a monologue here ...

Do not mortals have hard service on earth?
Are not their days like those of hired laborers?
Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
or a hired laborer waiting to be paid,
so I have been allotted months of futility,
and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?'
The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My body is clothed with worms and scabs,
my skin is broken and festering.

Summation: life is tough.

In my world of molecular biology:
Do not lab rats (people like me) go to the lab and do experiments
Do we not long to get good data so the team in the lab can publish papers
Are we not alloted months of efforts in the lab that seem futile
How long before the paper gets accepted for publication
The wait drags on whether the lab gets funding from the grant.
And when we get the grant, we can then go do more experiments.

And so our days are filled this way and yet ...

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,
and they come to an end without hope.
Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.
The eye that now sees me will see me no longer;
you will look for me, but I will be no more.
As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
so those who go down to the grave do not return.
They will never come to their homes again;
their places will know them no more.

Summation: life is short.

We know it could all end in a snap of a finger. We may complain about the seemingly endless cycles of our work a day lives but we fight tooth and nail to live because we don't want to die.

Of course, this is a rather bleak assessment of our lives. Job at this moment is definitely on the downside of things and it reflects where he is at. I suppose in happier days, he might take the perspective of Ecclesiastes 3.

Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

And I suppose this is one of the lessons of the book of Job: we are given permission to speak out and complain to God.

I think of the book of Job as a dramatic play and there are three layers of reality being portrayed. One layer is God's view at the beginning and end of the book. Another layer is the wisdom shared by Job's friends of which some things they say are true and some aren't. And then there is the layer of Job's experience and his choices. He clearly chooses faith but emotionally and intellectually, he has dissonance, an understandable dissonance which he brings to God unedited.

I think when we hear Job ranting and railing, we aren't supposed to be trying to figure out a complex theology lesson about what he says. I feel we are to react and reflect about the reality of life. Job was and by extension we are faced with an existential choice: be honest and bring it to God in full force honesty and hurt or walk away.

Lord, compared to Job, my life is pretty good. Yup, got my list of things I'm anxious about. Got a few complaints. I bring them to you. I will not keep silent about them. And I thank you that you do hear. Thank you that I have a community of faith to be with me in good and bad. Job's friends were far from perfect but they were there. I know I'm far from a perfect friend for others but help me to be there and to try to speak (and NOT speak) guided by your wisdom. Amen.

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