Last Friday I had my final classical guitar lesson for the year. However, I didn't get around to taking my guitar out of the case at all. I had been looking forward to the lesson because my teacher, also an accomplished luthier, had just finished making an acoustic bass guitar and planned to show it to me. I love playing bass. It is very different to playing guitar and I find it quite a free and expressive instrument. Not to mention rather groovy. I had expressed interest in buying the bass, but had come to the conclusion that I couldn't afford it. I told my teacher as much while playing the guitar, sliding around the fretless neck, enjoying its double-bass(ish) feel and sound. My teacher then told me I could have it, as he likes to give away one guitar a year. This year it was me. I was blown away. The guitar's value is worth a couple of years savings at least. Sometimes people can be astoundingly generous. I was (and still am) touched by the incredible generosity of my guitar teacher. Christmas is ironically a time when generosity is celebrated, but often traded in for self-focused materialism. Christmas seems to be reduced to spending money on uneccessary gifts, while mostly ignoring the greatest gift, the most dramatic and tender display of generosity ever known. God who came to us for the sake of love. God who continues to come, if only we can look past the tinsel.
The friends are no longer silent, and the great speeches begin. Words flow like tumultuous waves, sinking to places 'forgotten by feet', and rising to the heights of God himself. Words. Capable of refreshing like cool water or diminishing like the grave. What do Job's friends hear? Like conversational artisans, Job's friends speak eloquently, but as though Job had barely uttered a word.
In my field of employment and in my ministry, listening is one of the most important things I do. Yet how easily my mind can wander.
God, help me to listen to You. And when I am in conversation with people, help me to listen not only to the words of the mouth, but the words of the heart. May I be slow to speak.
As the days pass, I imagine Job's friends shifting awkwardly on the ground. Numb with waiting for reprieve, something to happen. Unknown to Job and his friends, the whole of heaven and earth also watches and waits. Finally, Job speaks. He can wait no longer, for his grief surges like an angry swollen river. The words come passionately, painfully. Words as bleak as the external man. Job is desperate, yearning to be unborn or born dead. Trapped in an endless night unrelieved by day.
I am not a stranger to the dark despair of Job, although those times are thankfully rare.
God, even in the darkness you are with me. You comfort me.
I went to work early this morning so I could stop at the local coffee shop to read the paper. I found another article about a man who was deported because of mental illness, drug addiction, and associated criminal activities. Another man homeless and becoming increasingly unwell. Another decision to terminate citizenship because of issues in the "too hard basket". Interestingly, it was a decision that went against the immigration board recommendations. When will it end? We need to start dealing with the cause of societal problems, and not just simply ban problematic individuals from our country. The recent shameful events at Cronulla provide ample evidence of our need as Australians to address simmering racial tensions. I am astounded that Howard can boldly declare that we don't have racism in Australia. I did not intend this to be a political blog, but we seem to be galloping from one instance of injustice to another at the moment.
The title of this post is not original – is taken from the name of a book by R. B. Zuck that I read as part of my exegesis subject on Job last semester. However, I like it, and it captures the essence of this series of posts that I intend to put up on Sundays. I say intend, for life has a way of intruding on the best of intentions. This series of posts are about my experience of the book of Job – my interpretation of aspects of the story, and a corresponding personal reflection. Here’s part 1:
Job, the greatest man in the land, now greatest only in his affliction. Job. To be remembered as the man stricken and laid bare by the hand of God. Imagining myself there, I am sickened by the sight of him. I avert my eyes, and walk widely around him. My respectful refrain from staring merely masks my gnawing discomfort. Repulsion mingles with curiosity, and compassion. I am astounded by his friends. Seven sorrowing days of silence broken only by weeping. Grieved beyond the comfort of words, Job draws solace from three who are moved beyond speech. Friends willing to simply be. In dust and ashes, tears and silence, they sit. Surely there could have been no greater evidence of their love for Job than this.
How easy it is to avoid those who hurt because of my own discomfort. Sometimes when I am confronted by pain in others, I am torn between wanting to say something and not really knowing what to say. God, help me to sit with those who hurt, and to know when to be silent. Soften my heart. May it be broken by the things that break Yours.
UPDATE: I have been posting more detailed analyses on the book of Job – you can read additional articles on the prologue, Job’s losses, the response of Job’s wife, Job’s seven days of silence, and Job’s first speech.
I blogged a while ago about Mr Robert Jovicic. He is still in Serbia, stateless,unwell, and still crying out for a chance to come home. I found this picture of him on the ABC website (thanks to a reply on my earlier post). His case is still under review. His expression says it all. Bring him home, Amanda Vanstone. In my last post I commented on the armchair view of justice. Here I go again, feeling stirred about something from the comfort of my home. But how do you get out of the armchair for situations like this?
This morning I will hand in my last paper for a subject I have been studying at Bible College, and thus my headspace is now fully my own again, and I have more time for reading blogs and writing my own. I have been studying the book of Job rather intently as the main focus of an exegetical subject, and I expect that it will permeate some of my blogging for a while til I get it out of my system.
It is an interesting book to read when pondering the whole issue of justice. I am passionate about justice, and dismayed by the lack of it in our world. Job was likewise dismayed by the lack of justice in his time, but he felt similarly towards God. Now there's a familiar line of thinking. How many people, Christians and otherwise, are disturbed about the goings on in the world and the apparent lack of intervention or prevention on God's behalf?
So Job is in good contemporary company. Yet his issue with God was far more personal than many armchair social critics who reflect on injustice but are neither touched by it or do anything about it. (If I am honest, I think I do a bit of armchair time too…). Job was a righteous man, and demanded to be vindicated. His friends thought he was suffering because of his sin (not dissimilar to the idea that people who get aids are being punished). Here's a question I found in my paper research: – "when the justice of God and the righteousness of man clash, what resolution exists?" For Job, the resolution was accepting that his judgment, along with the rest of humanity, was squarely in the hands of God.
Yesterday many Australians had only one thing on their minds – the hanging of Nguyen Tuong Van. It was not possible to watch TV, listen to the news or glance at the papers without being haunted by images of his mother or his ghostly clad grieving twin. We seem to have so many unforgettable painful moments these days. I have the ABC Online as my homepage. Today Nguyen Tuong Van is no longer in the top ABC stories. How quickly our nation moves on. I read this entry by Geoff Bullock called 'Today', posted at Signposts. It is a sobering reflection on the death of Nguyen Tuong Van, and our 'ungrace'.