Listen up! (Job 13-14)

December 2, 2010

One could quite easily get to Job 13-14 and think “alright Joby mate, change the blooming record, I mean you’re talking but all I’m hearing is ‘moan, moan, moan, moan moan moan moan!” But let’s have a brief recap. Job was a prosperous man with many livestock; they all died. Job had 10 children; they all died. And none of this was spread out, it was like bam! There goes your life Job, hard luck. And Job, good chap that he, is responded by saying “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed me the name of the Lord.” Impressive stuff. Well,at least he had his health, right? Wrong! He then gets afflicted sores all over his body. Ouch.

And at first his friends were incredibly sensitive. They sat with him in silence for a whole week. But when Job starts speaking, boy do they chip in with their two pence. I wonder if they spent that time in silence preparing their pearls of ‘wisdom’ for when the chance came. Last week I wrote about how Job’s suffering had put him on the defensive so that he didn’t hear comfort in his friends’ words. This week I’m realising that perhaps it’s Job that needs to be heard.

In chapter 13 Job asks to be listened to, or to be let to speak, no less than six times. He needs to speak out his grief, his anger, his confusion, his desperation. He needs to make his case to his friends and to God. He does not need a theology lecture or an oration on the nature and causes of suffering.

I have a good friend who likes a bit of moan. And quite right too, he/she (identity preserving non-gendering going on here) has had it rough in a lot of ways. When we spoke I used to try to help him/her look on the bright side, or to put the other person’s view across if they were in conflict. This did not go down at all well and my ‘advice’ fell on deaf ears for the most part. Then one day I was telling friend about something that was upsetting me and I made some over-the-top melancholy statement I knew not to be true like “men always leave me” or something as daft. This friend tried to reason with me “now you know that’s not true; you’ve had a great life, etc etc…” This was perfectly correct, but I did not need correction, I needed sympathy. I needed someone to hear my pain and comfort me. Of course, this had to happen more than once before I realised that I treated my friend exactly the way I didn’t want to be treated. Now I  try to just listen and allow them to me in whatever place they are, perhaps offer some advice if asked, and when I do that the conversation is much more satisfying on both ends.

Job reminds me that we are not rational when we suffering, and for the most part we know that. As Job put it 13:1-2 “look, my eye has seen all this and my ear has understood it. What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you.” We don’t need teachers, we need friends. Luckily, friends are teachers. Like my friend who needs to talk about their not-so-peachy life and taught me a very important lesson. To open my heart and close my mouth, if you like. Perhaps we can all learn from Job’s pleading.

But his friends aren’t the only ones who Job needs to be heard by. He need’s God’s ear too.  And he needs to hear God. There are so many questions in 13:21-14:22. Does God hear them? And does God hear us now? I’d really like a booming voice from the sky saying “yes I do!” just to be sure, wouldn’t you? But that’s not the deal…okay it is at the end of Job, but not for us.

If God’s speaking is subtle then God’s listening is too. He doesn’t hear us like we hear our friends; at the end of the phone at the end of a busy day. He doesn’t receive in Dolby Digital surround sound. But he does hear us I think, somehow, we are heard. It’s just really hard to connect with that truth sometimes, to feel heard by this transcendent intanglible being.

All the more important to listen to each other then…

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