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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Echos of Job

Job amazes me anew every time I read the book, a character whose brutal honesty, poetic lyricism, stubborn faith, and determination to pursue relationship with a God whom he does not understand, inspire.  While his friends insist on a zero-sum universe, an explanation of all that happens in an anthropocentric matrix of good-deserves-good bad-deserves-bad reward and punishment, Job relentlessly speaks the truth:  life does not always appear to work that neatly.  In chapters 9 and 13, after numerous rounds of debate, sometimes speaking to his friends but more often to God, he sums up his prayer in two points:  withdraw Your hand far from me (Let Him take his rod away from me) . . . Let not the dread of You make me afraid (do not let dread of Him terrify me).  Reflecting on this two-fold prayer, it seems to mirror the Gethsemane prayer of Jesus: take the cup away, but your will be done.  In other words, pray first for relief, deliverance, rescue, because that's the child-like cry of the heart in a difficult place, the place of loss, grief, scabbing skin or impending execution.  Even though we know intellectually that God works through difficulty, it is OK to be like Job and Jesus and say, please, stop, I've had enough.  But that prayer is balanced by the second half, the prayer that relationship trumps getting my way.  The prayer that we would not be separated, afraid.  The prayer that we would not choose relief at the expense of choosing God's presence.  After asking for what we want (help!), the request is couched in the deeper desire that God's will prevail, that His ways are preferable to easy ways when a choice has to be made.

Wednesday we awoke to our own home in Bundibugyo for the first time in just over two weeks, after a full journey of everything from baptisms to bungee, reunions and goodbyes, three countries and 9 different places to stay from  tents, to homes, to African bandas, to a hotel.  As good as it is to be home, it is hard, too, to re-enter the reality of this place. Bundibugyo is sort of a Job nursery-school,  the small abc's of suffering, not the crux of the entire God-Satan conflict, but an outpost where minor players can find plenty of testing.  We're not dying of anything wildly tropical on the disease front, but fighting off draggy infections and minor injuries that discourage with their persistence.  We have four live-and-well kids, but two of them are far, far away and the year holds more separation than time together.  We're not outcast from our community, but every step forward requires effort and push.  We have not been devastated by economic disaster, but life is not all smooth and comfortable.  So it was good for the timing of return to fall on a weekly early morning prayer meeting, and we prayed like Job, pouring out our sorrows over things we wish God would change (deaths on the Paeds ward, illness on the team, crises at school, demanding dependent acquaintances who knock early and late for help, people we miss, looming transitions, countdowns to goodbyes, uncertainty).  But then we turned to the second part of the prayer, asking God to be present no matter what the answer to all our petitions, to draw us close, to give us faith to walk without terror in His paths.

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