“I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.
2 I say to God: Do not declare me guilty,
but tell me what charges you have against me.
3 Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the plans of the wicked?
4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Do you see as a mortal sees?
5 Are your days like those of a mortal
or your years like those of a strong man,
6 that you must search out my faults
and probe after my sin—
7 though you know that I am not guilty
and that no one can rescue me from your hand?
8 “Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?
9 Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?
10 Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese,
11 clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?
12 You gave me life and showed me kindness,
and in your providence watched over my spirit.
13 “But this is what you concealed in your heart,
and I know that this was in your mind:
14 If I sinned, you would be watching me
and would not let my offense go unpunished.
15 If I am guilty—woe to me!
Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head,
for I am full of shame
and drowned in my affliction.
16 If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion
and again display your awesome power against me.
17 You bring new witnesses against me
and increase your anger toward me;
your forces come against me wave upon wave.
18 “Why then did you bring me out of the womb?
I wish I had died before any eye saw me.
19 If only I had never come into being,
or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!
20 Are not my few days almost over?
Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy
21 before I go to the place of no return,
to the land of gloom and utter darkness,
22 to the land of deepest night,
of utter darkness and disorder,
where even the light is like darkness.”
I’ve gotten a little side-tracked by some sub-themes in the readings these past few weeks and want to re-focus on the fact that we are still in Lent, since we’re about halfway through it. Lent is a time we remember Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and prepare ourselves for his return on Easter. I think calling out injustices, celebrating nature, and reaching out to those in mourning are all things he would want us to do, so the past few weeks worth of blog posts aren’t wasted, I just wanted to take the time to really focus on Lent itself again.
“If I am guilty–woe to me!” verse 15 declares, “Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction.” I am not a fan of needless guilt – I think it is bad for our mental health and can prevent us from getting out there and doing some real good – but this passage does invite us to marvel at the omniscient and omnipotent nature of God. God is always watching, is ever present. Poor Job is speaking out in pain, but there is truth when he says that God could always “bring new witnesses against [him]” (v. 16). He even asks God to “turn away from [him] so [he] can have a moment’s joy,” (v. 20) realizing that even in the depths of his misery God is watching.
I got to go the Ash Wednesday service kid-free, which meant I actually got to listen to the sermon for once, and the Pastor asked – “if you knew Jesus was coming tonight, what would you do to prepare?” It’s an interesting question. In all honesty my first thought was clean the house and make some cookies. But beyond that, it brings the reality that God is always watching, is ever present, into a more concrete reference. There are definitely some moments where I wish God had maybe looked away and not noticed my petty gossip, losing my cool with the girls, or all the single-use containers I still buy. But that is the beautiful thing about Lent: we know Jesus is coming, in reality we do not know the day or hour, but symbolically he will return on Easter, and we can prepare ourselves for him.
So how do we do that? Giving up something is a nod to Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and if that helps you focus more on Jesus, then great, do it! Dawn Hutchings, a Lutheran pastor whose blog I follow, has an interesting idea of Giving up God for Lent. I know, it sounds a little out there, and maybe it is for some people, but the idea is to give up the idol of God and surrender to the spirit of God – I definitely suggest reading it. But preparing for Jesus can be lots of things beyond giving up something. I took on reading Job as my Lenten practice because I never liked the book, and thought that would be an appropriate practice of spiritual rigor. I’m happy to say that I’ve gained a new appreciation for the book of Job, and I hope that the gratitude and openness of spirit it has brought me is an appropriate preparation for Jesus. And all that leaves is to re-dedicate ourselves to God: confessing our sins, or, if “sin” is too much of a trigger word, confessing our shortcomings and vowing to try harder. That’s all we need to do. Though I have to admit, if Jesus was coming tonight, I’d probably still try to clean the house.