What was Job’s life like after God spoke to him “out of the whirlwind”? After a series of unimaginably tragic and devastating acts of senseless destruction were unleashed upon him and his family? How did he change? The ending of the story tells us that God rewarded Job by giving him twice as much as he had before – including brand new children to replace those he lost(!). Maybe they were new and improved models.
I have to assume this ending is meant as a spiritual metaphor – because if I am to take it literally, if the God I believe cradles all of us in the palm of his/her hand could really allow a human being to be tortured within an centimeter of the destruction of his soul and then say – “Hey, it’s all good! Here are some lovely parting gifts to compensate for the cruelties I’ve allowed Satan to inflict upon you so that I could win a bet” – well, that god can go to Hell. If Satan would take him.
As a spiritual metaphor, however, maybe the bountiful gifts that Job receives speak to an internal expansion and transformation. For the first time, perhaps, despite a lifetime of piety and reverence, Job has in the midst of his sufferings actually met God. With Job’s false self shredded to pieces and lying at his feet, God’s gifts to Job might really symbolize Job’s discovery of his true self.
At least this is what I am hoping, because I have a vested interest. I have not had a year like Job had, but by the standards of my own charmed life it has been pretty rough. I began the year wondering if I would lose my job, then found out I would probably only be reduced to part time (which would have meant my family and I could eat 4 out of every 5 days). I had about a week to celebrate the good news that all was well at work when my Mom passed away – the most devastating personal loss of my life.
And then came Sandy.
We are OK, thanks be to God. Our lack of power is an inconvenience but so far no danger. We still have a house. (I cannot get out of my head – nor should I – the image of the man on the southern coast of New York City who was looking through a pile of wood that used to be his house for whatever scraps of his former life he could sift out of the wreckage. And then there are the two children who were swept away by flood waters in Staten Island and drowned. Please pray for all of them.)
The combined effect of all of these events on my well-being, however, has been what I imagine it would feel like to be punched in the head by a big strong bully. At this moment I am, to continue the metaphor, sitting on the ground with the stars circling my head like a cartoon character. The forces of the economy, of nature, and of death have combined to remind me that, like Job, my castle can turn into an ash heap at any moment. (In fact, at one point during the storm on Monday, I went outside to try and stabilize a (now defunct) fence, looked up at the sky and called out – “Don’t you think you’ve made your point sufficiently?)
Which brings me back to the ending of the book of Job. Amid the wreckage that I need to sift through I am hoping I will find shreds of my own false self as well. More and more I am coming to believe that the fundamental spiritual struggle of life is to recognize the distinction between the false self which the Ego tries so valiantly to defend and the truth of what I look like through God’s eyes. And not just recognize, but then to bid that false self good riddance and to step outside of it to get, perhaps for the first time, a clear view of God.
Right now all of this spiritual transformation does not feel like any fun. Who will I find at the other end of this process? Stay tuned.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(To purchase full lenght writings produced by my former self, go to wwww.twentythirdpublications.com or to http://www.amazon.com)