The Book of Job tells a very human story of death, loss, pain and trial. After telling of the tragedies that Job endures, readers are dragged through page after page of ramblings between Job and his four friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu. This goes on from Chapter 3 to the end of Chapter 37. Then, like a perfect melodic musical resolution after a painfully long dissonant section of a symphony, come the awesome words of Yahweh in Chapters 38 and 39. It begins with the jaw-dropping verses, “I will question you, and you will answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
I interpret the Book of Job as a message of liberation from our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual internal ramblings. Don’t our thoughts and attempts to understand the goodness of God (or our belief in the lack thereof) go on and on and on… just like the conversations between Job and his friends? Interestingly and significantly, at times the points that are made throughout all of those 34 chapters are very good ones, sounding quite erudite at times. However, held next to the measuring stick of God’s “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” even the wisest conclusions of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu and Job, and all of us humans, seem rather petty.
Getting to the place where the words of Yahweh can sink in would seem to require mental soil tilling or intellectual mud wrestling like that of Job and his friends, that, plus actual suffering. Is the Book of Job God’s How-To Manual of liberation from worry? Might an appropriate subtitle to such a manual be “Ultimate Acceptance of God’s God-ness”?
A question like this is what is juxtaposed in my mind with what Zoe’s 21-month-old fractured sentences made me ponder. “Plane…You!!! Plane…You!!!” Zoe said. (She calls herself “You”.) We were driving in the car to pick up her Auntie Reney and Uncle Noah from the airport for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Her words, from contextual clues and her having been on two or three previous plane rides, translate as “There is an airplane!!! I have been on an airplane!!! It was a memorable and exciting experience!!!”
What dawned on me was that she, at that moment, did not know if she was headed onto a plane for a long flight to new surroundings for a week-long trip into unfamiliarity, or if we were making a loop around the airport terminal driveway. She had very little idea what our ride would be, but she was along for it, whatever “it” might be! This, I realized, is a precognitive child’s way of life. They do not know if that car ride for which they just got strapped in is going to be to the grocery store or across the state. Either way, she seemed like she would be happy. Her happiness has at its root an innocent, if ignorant, acceptance. Zoe is free in a similar way that Job became free.
I imagine the tantrums of toddlerhood will be coming for Zoe in the next months. (I am already seeing some seeds.) Her newfound willfulness will come from a place of no longer being along-for-the-ride-wherever-it-may-be-headed. The Tantrums will come from a place of relinquishing or losing the innocent acceptance that Job re-found at the end of his epic journey. Zoe, in her humanity, is on a course to need the same journey that all fallen humans need. All fallen humans are on Job’s journey. The hope and message of Job’s book is that we might simply be like a child again in our acceptance of the trip we are on. The key to this liberating acceptance is to experience the God-ness of God. Can we be babies, spiritually, in a backseat, along for the ride, amazed, delighted and awestruck by whatever comes our way?
The ride, after all, is to Paradise.