Job Chapter 7:
“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? 2Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, 3so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. 5My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out again. 6My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope.
7“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. 8The eye that beholds me will see me no more; while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone. 9As the cloud fades and vanishes, so those who go down to Sheol do not come up; 10they return no more to their houses, nor do their places know them any more. 11“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. 12Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me? 13When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ 14then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. 16I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.
17What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, 18visit them every morning, test them every moment? 19Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? 20If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you? 21Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be."
Everyone--EVERYONE has had the "Job Moment" at least once in his or her life. Me, I've had several. But I'm sure you know this moment when I describe it--those moments in our lives where something has made us so miserable that our heart hurts, our hair hurts, our spleen even hurts from having vented it over several days! Those moments where either we've felt we've committed an unpardonable wrong, or have been victimized in a cruel, unforgivable sort of way, or our life situation is so seemingly un-livable at this point we don't even want to get up in the morning and face the day. We lie awake in our beds and we are even afraid to dream, because all we dream are gruesome nightmares. We begin to feel our whole reason to exist in the universe is to be someone's personal ass-kicking target--maybe even, it seems that God is using us for ass-kicking practice.
Sometimes, we lie in our beds and feel utterly clueless--we think, "What did I do to deserve this?" Sometimes it's aimed at how someone has wronged us and we think, "Why does so-and-so despise me so much she/he would do this to me?" Other times we put the blame squarely on ourselves and yearn for a do-over: "If only I had/hadn't (fill in the blank)! Why can't I just (fill in the blank) and make everything right again?" Sometimes it's all of the above!
We, like Job, feel ourselves living in the middle of a holding place of equal parts sorrow and anger. Some of this anger is directed at God, and oddly enough, half of is is because God seems to be absent, and the other half is He is "too present" and won't leave us alone!
Yet--here's the catch 22. I realize, in my case, when these "Job moments" come into my life, where the anguish actually comes from. It comes from the fact I realize that I cannot exist for any long period of time in a stagnant place of equal parts sorrow and anger--in fact, that I WILL not, for any long period of time--it is simply not possible. I realize God is going to move me to the next place--a place I call "Ignatian indifference"--and I am not ready to leave either the "sorrow place" or the "anger place." I am kind of wanting to still be angry, to still be anguished, and in my usual "terrier with a rat" fashion, I am not totally willing to drop the dead rat.
You might be wondering what I mean by "The place of Ignatian indifference." One of the things we learn if we study the life and teachings of St. Ignatius is that, when we read his Principles, we discover that the first Principle is to accept what God's desire for us, and in essence, become "indifferent" to all created things. Now that doesn't mean to be apathetic or to withdraw. It simply means that we give up our preferences and delusions of control of our world. For instance, if, in my prayer time, if I were fretting about "the higher paying job" vs. "the lower paying job", and God's desire for my happiness seems to be leading to the job with less pay, then that is the one I choose, because I don't care about the money--I care about being an instrument of God's will.
I realize in retrospect, that when I moved to Kirksville, I followed the path of Ignatian indifference at a time I didn't even know what it was. It seemed like a stupid career move at the time, and my colleagues were more than happy to tell me about it--even my closest colleague M. He told me "I can't go home again. I don't get it. You are SO smart, and THIS is the absolute dumbest thing you have ever done." Some told me I was "throwing my life away." I had many, MANY "Job moments" as my decision grew closer to "the day it would happen." I was miserable. I spent the first year here hypervigilant and bound and determined that maybe I HAD ruined my life. More Job moments. Then, one day, I just sort of stopped worrying about it, and looked around and thought, "Huh. You know, this is pretty good."
Part of what makes our "Job moments" painful, when we are people who truly WANT to hear God's wills and desires, is the realization that God is changing these things anyway, and it doesn't matter "what we want." You've all felt them sometimes. Maybe after the end of an intimate relationship with someone, we realize we simply are becoming indifferent to the things that used to hurt us like red-hot pokers. Maybe in the midst of a job crisis, we realize we WILL be doing something else for a living whether we want to or not. Maybe in a family estrangement, we recognize that we are going to have to exist in a different way in the family dynamic. Maybe in a situation whether substance abuse has been involved, or there is a legal ramification to the dynamic, it is the true knowing that there is a reckoning, and a proper response to that reckoning that is going to be a lot of work and hassle and life-long commitment to change. Change will happen and much of it, we will not be in the driver's seat.
In this chapter, Job is doing the only thing we humans can ever do and survive it--simply live it and feel all the emotions that go with it. Simply live it out. It's all any of us can do in our own Job moments and survive. The miracle is that more often than not, we do better than survive. Eventually, we thrive.