Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mrs. Job

Warren Plains UMC's Disciple Bible Study meets every Wednesday night, so we met last night and did Session 15 which is about "Suffering."  The readings for the session covered the entire Book of Job (what else would we read?).  It would be just about impossible to study Job without mentioning Mrs. Job and the line she's famous for, "Curse God and die."

Being a "normal" group of students, she and her line were, indeed, mentioned.  I'm grateful because I love a chance to pull out my soapbox and orate.

There are a lot of people in the Bible that I think get a bum rap, have through the centuries, and I have taken it upon myself to vindicate their reputations.  So, let me get out my well-worn soapbox and I'll begin with Mrs. Job.

In back-to-back events, messengers come to Job and tell him that he's lost his wealth, his livelihood, and all ten of his children.  In apparently short order, Job, himself is struck with terrible boils all over his body.  We find him sitting in ashes scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery when his wife utters her famous line.  Readers tear her up and then rush to Job's side with tissues and chicken soup to comfort him.  Poor, pitiful Job.  Lost everything like that and all he's got left is a nagging wife who advises that he curse God and die!  Poor, pitiful Job!  And THEN! Then, he's got these three friends who come visit and rip into him telling him he's a rotten person, is paying for his sins, and he needs to REPENT!  Poor, pitiful Job!

News flash!  Mrs. Job lost all her wealth and livelihood too.  Mrs. Job's ten children were killed, too!  Mrs. Job is left with a husband who's spouting pious platitudes, sitting in ashes, covered with terrible boils, and guess who has to take care of him while she, too, is deep in grief?  Mrs. Job!  Where's the sympathy she's due?  On top of that, her husband's three friends (later we learn there's a fourth) come for at least an unplanned seven day visit and it will be her duty to provide for them and be hospitable.

Modern psychiatry tells us there are 5 stages of grief:  Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  We can be in any stage at any time and experience more than one stage at a time.  I think both Job and Mrs. Job were dealing with their grief in ways that were appropriate and that fit their personalities.  God seems to have been able to handle both of them and they both lived to have ten more children (NOT to suggest that ten more can replace the ten who died) and their wealth restored.

If we're going to rush to Job's side with tissue, chicken soup, and compassion, we should also do the same for Mrs. Job and stop being so rough on her.

We should also stop being so rough with the friends that show up.  We tend to remember that all the friends just can't seem to say the right things to console Job in his tremendous loss & agony.  We tend to forget that these friends also dropped everything, left their homes, and went to spend at least seven days by Job's side just sitting with him.  According to the story, they didn't say a word to him till the seven days were up.  We don't know how much longer they stayed.  And, they were offering their friend the best theological counsel they could at the time.  God blesses the good, curses the sinner...Job you've obviously sinned, admit it, repent, and all will be well because God will forgive you when you stop being so arrogant.

When was the last time your friend was experiencing great loss and pain and you dropped everything and just sat quietly with the friend for SEVEN DAYS???  And then did the best you could to help him?  They weren't trying to torment their friend, they were trying to help.  Even today, we rarely say the right things when a loved one is hurting.  Advice columns still address that.  Why do we look down at these men when we often don't even attempt what they did?

My all time pet peeve is how Eve, of Garden of Eden fame, is still cast as the world's greatest bad gal.  People really need to go back and read Genesis chapters 2 and 3.  Here's the order:  God creates Man (Adam), God tells Adam he "may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden--except the tree of knowledge of good and evil," God creates woman (Eve) from one of Adam's ribs, the serpent questions the woman about eating the fruit from any of the trees, woman lets serpent know what she's been told (even though she wasn't there to hear God instruct Adam because she wasn't created yet), she eats the fruit she's not supposed to and shares with Adam and he eats.  Adam was sitting right there with her!  Oh yeah, nowhere does the text say they ate an "apple."  It's "fruit".  Adam got the instructions from God first-hand, not Eve.  Adam NEVER speaks up and let's Eve take the bum rap.  She's taken that bum rap long enough!  She obviously knew what Adam had been told, she's not exonerated.  But she doesn't bear total blame for the downfall of humanity.

Can we say "Bathsheba" without thinking about how she ruined King David?  King David was a great guy, a man after God's own heart.  Author of the greatest Psalms ever written!  You can't say enough good things about David of striking down Goliath fame!  But, you also can't say anything good about him when it comes to the Bathsheba episode of his life.  His fifteen minutes of shame!  He was supposed to be at war like a good king.  He wasn't supposed to be anywhere near his palace rooftop where he could see Bathsheba minding her own business taking a bath.  He finds out who she is and learns she's Uriah the Hittite's wife.  David knew Uriah well...he was in his inner circle of 30 (read 2 Samuel 23: 18-39).  David sends for Bathsheba, who has no voice at all in the story, and the story "nicely" records that he slept with her.  What he did was rape her and then have her husband killed because she became pregnant, it was obviously his child and he just couldn't get Uriah to leave the battlefield (where David should have also been) and sleep with his wife so the baby could be passed off as Uriah's.  It reads like a modern soap opera, but it's not.  Can we please stop blaming Bathsheba for this and place the blame on King David where it belongs.  God and Nathan knew where it belonged too.  David later learned and repented.  David-bad guy here.  Bathsheba-exonerated.

The last one I want to lift up is Disciple Simon Peter of sinking fame.  Remember, he gets out of the boat during a storm to walk to Jesus, on the water, because Jesus tells him to do it.  He gets scared, starts sinking, and calls out to Jesus to save him.

Boy do we remember that "sinking" part!  Many a sermon has been preached about Peter taking his eyes off Jesus, starts to sink, and there's our lesson...in the storms of life, keep your eyes on Jesus and you won't sink.

Can we give Peter credit for climbing out of that boat, in a storm, and walking on water?  The rest of the disciples were in the boat, scared.  I'd have sat right there in that boat with them!  I would have admired Peter's bravery and faith.  Why do we condemn him for it?  Do we feel like it's our place to say something negative because Jesus told Peter he had little faith and because Jesus asked him why he doubted?  Had we been Peter, there's a good chance he would have said the same thing to us...if we got out of the boat in the first place.

I can't condemn Peter, Bathsheba, Eve, Job's friends, or Mrs. Job.  I can't find where God or Jesus did either.  I find grace and forgiveness.  But I don't find condemnation.  And because I, too, am human and often stand in need of grace and forgiveness...

I am grateful.