Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fierce and Tame

Job 38:1, 8-11, “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said… ‘Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” (NIV).

For someone who doesn’t know how to swim and is (at least moderately) afraid of water; I have come to love the ocean. 

My first visit to the Atlantic looked something like this:

It was the end of our first vacation to Disney with kids.  They were so little (5, 4, and 2), and after miles upon miles in the van plus days upon nights in the parks; we had at least one vomiting on the way home, and everyone was exhausted (in the best way possible).  I knew our beach day was shot, but I still wanted to see the ocean, because I honestly believe that if you’re that close to something you want, you should grab it.  After all, who knows when the opportunity will arise again?  We parked the van, and I quite literally jumped out of the passenger side, ran down the beach, put my toes in the water, snapped a couple of pictures, and returned to the vehicle for the long ride home.   Not much of an ocean experience…

Then almost a decade passed, so I guess I was right about the whole ‘do it while you can’ thing…

When next I found myself at the ocean, I was on the other side of the country on a cold day in September… alone (much to the dismay of friends and family members who were freaking out just a little bit about the safety of a non-swimmer spending the day by herself at a nearly deserted beach along the Oregon coast).  It was one of the best days I have ever enjoyed (minus the sunburn and the part when I sat down on a rock that subsequently ‘disappeared’ when the tide came in… ironic…).   This is the day I fell in love with the ocean, and I think the imagery in this passage of Job is just about right, because it demonstrates both the power and restraint of this beautiful part of creation.  Is there anything more fierce and tame?

I like that God speaks to Job, “out of the storm.”

As I was working through Scripture, this morning, I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of times suffering is cited as a part of the gospel message, the way of Christ.   

II Timothy 1:8, 12, “…join with me in suffering… this is no cause for shame…” (NIV).   

Suffering is expected, and yet few people want to hear that.  Few people want to talk about it or accept it.  If I’m honest, I don’t. 

If there’s a narrative in Scripture that most clearly reveals the full extent of suffering to which a human being can be subjected; it’s Job’s narrative. 

And here Job stands, on the brink of a complete breakdown, still not cursing God but, perhaps, frustrating God to a certain extent. 

And here God stands, and it’s as if God is stretching out God’s very arms, leaning into the wind that so violently threatens to push the waves past the line that will knock the rock right out from under Job, finally saying, “Enough is enough!” 

The storm doesn’t pass, but the powerful waves recede just enough for us to take a breath, held tenuously by the one who can persuade even nature not to cross some lines in the sand.

There’s no neat way to wrap it up, because the story is unfinished.  We leave Job, still firmly rooted in the eye of the storm and its ensuing grief.  There isn’t a plot twist where we find out that it was all a bad joke or all a bad dream.  But at least God has arrived on the scene. 


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