Sunday, May 20, 2012

Be Honest

I was reading Job yesterday and something jumped out and grabbed me by the balls. This is pretty rare for me when I'm reading scripture, I have to be honest. Having grown up in the church I generally approach Bible reading with a fairly condescending attitude. I don't really read it to see something new or gain some fresh new insight because I pretty much know it all already. I know the whole story, I've seen the movie and know how it ends. I've traditionally read the Bible because that's what I was supposed to do. That's what it meant to be a good Christian and if I wanted my life to turn out decent then I definitely needed to do everything I could to be a good Christian. Funny thing happened though. After all those years of trying to do things right, things still went to shit. That got me thinking...what was the actual purpose of "doing things right" all those years? Did I really think that on some grand cosmic scheme God was dolling out good and bad circumstances tit for tat based on how closely I adhered to the rules of being a good Christian? When I sat down to read other books (not the Bible), I actually enjoyed myself, stuff jumped out at me from the page all the time. I found myself laughing, crying, and nodding my head in an Aristotelean fashion saying "hmmm" out loud to myself. You would think that a book often called "the greatest story on earth" would have some sort of a similar effect on me. So, I decided to try again. I decided I would try to set aside all the stuff I thought I knew about God, Christianity, and the Bible and try to approach it in a brand new fashion, and in a language that was a little more exciting than the cardboard translations I was used to. So, I started reading through Eugene Peterson's translation, The Message, and I've started to find that God is actually a lot more confusing than I ever thought he was. I'm also finding that the story is a lot more interesting than I ever thought it was. But, I digress. I was talking about Job...

I've heard the classic sermon on Job many times in my life and I always got the same takeaway. It's okay to question God sometimes but just remember that he is God and you are not, and his ways are not our ways. For the most part when I was reading Job this time, I was kind of seeing the same thing only with a slightly different appreciation for how angry and confused Job was because I've been feeling much the same way lately. Shit just doesn't make sense and when stupid people come and try to explain it to you (Job's friends), you just want to punch them in the face. Then, of course, God comes and gives Job this big lecture about how he doesn't really know what he's talking about because he wasn't there at the creation of the world and so on. But then God says something to Job's friends that I never noticed before; God rebukes Job's friends. In most of the translations I had read before it said something like "You have not spoken of me what is right, and my servant Job has". I never really understood that before and just glossed over it because God just got done telling Job how he didn't know what he was talking about; now he's saying Job spoke what is right? But Eugene Peterson translated it this way, when God is speaking to Eliphaz: "I've had it with your two friends. I'm fed up! You haven't been honest either with me or about me--not the way my friend Job has." Then he tells the three friends to make a sacrifice and Job will pray for them and he will accept Job's prayer on their behalf. Even though he lit into Job about not really understanding what he was talking about, he never told Job to make a sacrifice and repent. But the friend's had to repent for not being honest, for pretending like they had all the answers when they really had no idea what the hell they were talking about. That gets me.

For so long, I've felt so bad about having questions about God because "his ways are not my ways". It's okay to ask some questions and have some doubts but I really shouldn't dwell on them for too long because I need to be a good little Christian and just continue trusting that everything is in it's right place. But I don't think that's right. I'm starting to think that God would much rather us be real and honest with him rather than pretend we actually know what the hell we're doing because that's more dangerous. If you give a kid instructions, you'd rather them be honest that they don't really understand instead of pretending like they do and completely screwing up what you asked them to do.

So, I'm going to try being more honest. And not the type of honest I've usually been where I ask some hard questions but then let them go away real fast because I'm afraid of making God angry. I'm going to be honest because things really don't make sense to me and I'm tired of pretending like they do. I don't understand why relationships fall apart. I don't understand why people who are ready to provide a child with a loving home remain barren or lose children while families down the street are having more children than they can care for or handle...some should never have had a child in the first place. I don't understand why families, who are supposed to be the most loving and supporting safe place, sometimes turn on each other. I don't understand why good, decent people suffer while cruel, heartless assholes get all the glory. I don't get it. There's no rhyme or reason, it makes no sense; and like Job, I'm calling God to answer.

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