December 16, 2010
Eliphaz and Job do not see eye to eye in chapters 15-16. No change there then. What they do share, however is a need to be right. Both want the other to see their point of view, so neither is heard.
I find the defensiveness of these men’s language so striking. “Are you the firstborn of the human race?” snipes Eliphaz at his friend who he sees as turning away from God through his complaint. “miserable comforters are you all” Job tells his friends. He’s got a point too. Is it ever appropriate to tell your grieving friend that he is choosing “the tongue of the crafty” and give him a lecture on what God does to the wicked? (15:17-35).
If there’s anything this book is teaching me about it’s empathy. Much of what Job says seems incredibly dramatic and even self-indulgent. Some of it is, I must admit, difficult to understand at all. But then there are moments when his words reveal utter desolation, such as 16:6: “If I speak, my pain is not assuaged, and if I forbear, how much of it leaves me? ” He can find no comfort, no catharsis, he can only keep expressing, keep going over the events that have rendered him hopeless and led him to question the God to whom he was so devoted.
But what’s this? Right at the end of chapter 16 Job seems to suggest that he has hope in heaven yet: “Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high.” Somewhere inside, through all of his ranting about what God has done to him, there is a glimmer of the promise that this same God will be his justifier, his redeemer even? It’s quite a surprise after narrative of abandonment and/or abuse that’s been running for quite a while. A pleasant surprise too.
In order to see these things, both the hopelessness and the flicker of light, I had to give Job my attention. Although I am beginning to feel like I’m reading the same arguments over and over, I had to try to treat this chapter as a new start, where I could find something different. I ask myself what I would be like as a friend, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a worker, if I paid this same sensitive attention to those around me. If I let empathy arise in me but at the same time looked for hope.
I know that in Job there are more than just relationship dynamics going on. This book gives us great philosophical and theological debate. But sometimes we get too much into the head stuff, too much into the abstract and we neglect the practical, the compassionate, the now. So I promise I will speak about other things in my posts about Job (there’s plenty more to come) but I just keep thinking more and more about ways of relating. Perhaps it’s something that needs hammering home in me. I do looove to be right. And I also looove to share my opinions, as you may have noticed. But I hope I love to be a good friend, a good listener more. Does the world need more words? Probably not. Does the world need more empathy and hope? I’m gona say yes!
What if we all listened and watched for hope once today when we would usually jump in with our learned opinion? It would be an interesting experiment at least…
I shall leave you with a quotation that I found on my friend’s facebook page, of all things. Doesn’t say who it’s from, perhaps it her own:
“From the place where we are right, flowers will never grow in the spring. The place where we are right is hard and trampled like a yard. But doubts and loves dig up the world like a mole, a plough”