Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


Job 1: 13-19:

One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Well...(thanks be to God)...I finished the Gospel of John. I was glad I stuck with it, but I kind of feel about it like I did about my Neurosurgery rotation in medical school...learned a lot but glad it's over.

I decided to move on to a different "J" book--the book of Job. I have always sort of hidden from the book of Job. It's a big dose of "when bad things happen to good people." It's definitely a book for grownups. But I continue to be struck by the importance of steadfastness in hearing the voice that reminds us of the awesomeness of God and His abundance to us in both good times and bad. Job, to put it mildly, was one steadfast dude.

When I read this chapter, thinking about when Job lost his entire legacy in terms of his own DNA with the death of every one of his children, all at once, I couldn't help but think of the Sullivan Brothers. They are a story of a family who gave "all they had."

George, Frank, Joe, Matt, and Al Sullivan were all from Waterloo, IA, born to Alleta and Tom Sullivan from 1914 to 1922. They all enlisted on Jan. 3, 1942, less than a month after Pearl Harbor, with the stipulation that they all serve together. Although the Navy had a policy about separating siblings, it was wartime, and five brothers serving together with a family motto of "We're Sullivans, and we stick together," were, frankly, the stuff War Bond Drives were made of. They were all assigned to the USS Juneau.

On November 13, 1942, during the Guadalcanal campaign, the Juneau was torpedoed and sunk. All five Sullivan brothers perished. Not all were killed instantly; reports stated Al survived for a day and George, for four or five days. In another sad twist, although over 100 sailors on the Juneau survived the sinking, a search was not immediately mounted as a B-17 crew that witnessed the sinking could not break radio silence despite spotting survivors. They reported it in their report, but the paperwork was lost in the shuffle. It was several days before a search commenced, and by then, only a few survivors remained; the elements and the sharks had claimed most of the survivors. Only ten crew members were rescued.

The military adopted the Sole Survivor Policy as a result of the deaths of all five of the Sullivan brothers.

As I read the first chapter of Job, I could not help but think of the burden the three uniformed messengers chosen for the task of notifying Tom and Alleta had. I could imagine them trudging to the porch, dreading knocking on the door, to have Tom answer it:

"I have some news for you about your boys," one said.

"Which one?" asked Thomas.

"I'm sorry," the messenger replied. "All five."

I cannot even imagine the tears and pain that ensued.

Tom and Alleta were left with one daughter, Margaret, and mercifully, Albert left a wife and a son.

But let's go back to Job.

Job had seven sons and three daughters. We are not told in the chapter if there are any spouses or grandchildren. But it doesn't matter. This is a guy who, if you read earlier in the chapter, loved his children so much he was always making burnt offerings on his children's behalf "just in case they had sinned." Yet, poof...they were all gone.

But this is just the FIRST thing that will happen to Job in this book. Much more woe is in store for him.

Yet we sure do like to throw around the word "all" in our ordinary daily decision tree.

"I gave it my all."

"That's all the money I can donate right now."

"This is all the time I have at the moment."

"You are all I need."

"This is all I can stand."

But how many of these actions are really "all" and how many should be loosely translated as, "This is all I CHOOSE to do about this at the moment."

Also, sometimes we use the word "all" and its derivations to take credit for ourselves or shift blame.

"This is all YOUR fault."

"I ALWAYS take out the garbage."

"I did it all by myself."

"You ALWAYS ride me about that."

It begs the large question. When it comes down to the things God expects of us, or we feel He may ask us to do, have we really, truly given it "our all?" Every heart, even the most righteous hearts on the planet, has to say "no" to that question, even if it is only once in a while.

Or what about the flip side?

When God promises He will give us all we need, are we prepared for an "all" on the positive side that is as big as the negative "all" as the loss of the Sullivan Brothers or the children of Job? An "all" that is as magnificent in joy as these things we experience as loss?

Again, even the most righteous heart on the planet would probably have to say "no" now and then.

Really, I have a feeling when most of us ask God for a satisfying life, or happiness, or peace, or contentment, we're secretly only asking for a content, un-challenging middle--simply for things that happen in our life not to rock the boat. We certainly are generally not asking for pain that takes us to new levels of awareness, nor joy so intense we have to admit God's grace, rather than our own efforts, in it. We're not asking for anything so good nor so bad that it presents a challenge to our faith.

If you peek ahead to the end of Job (it's okay if you do--I did), Job, as a result of his steadfastness in obeying God, will come to experience the positive side of that "all." May each of us have the courage to come to yearn for that very same "all."

3 comments:

Oh wow - this is really, really good.

Let me back up, Job is a tough book but a great one. And yes, not for the faint of heart.

I weep when I hear Job misused as a prop for some finger-wagging-fire-breathing-must-be-appeased-God. It is so much richer than that, so much more.

You've done well with that part.

I am left with the story of the Sullivans, tragedy beyond tragedy, sorrow beyond sorrow.

Thank you for this thought provoking and stirring piece.

¨Sullivan´s¨ ought be a brand name for a over the counter, instant courage power powder...sorry, no artificial ingrediants allowed so it´s hard to find and rare as fine/flawless ice cold colored diamonds.

Oh, thank you. This comes at just the right time...

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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