Sunday, December 20, 2009

The "Hollywood Ending" of Job

I have learned so much from my calls-himself-a-conservative-Christian-but-acts-like-a-liberal-theologian professor in my Old Testament class this year. “Comfortable with the ambiguity” is a phrase he uses about himself. Love it. I did not have to leave logic or reason at the door.

Upon one thing, however, we are in profound disagreement. And it is not so much a theological difference as a philosophical one.


Specifically, the ending of Job. We’re both fans of the book. He, however, sees the ending of Job as a Hollywood ending, tacked on, that negates the rest of the book.

Boy, do I disagree. I think it’s real, and not Hollywood. I think it gives hope, yes, but legitimate hope.

So, Job has gone through all his pain and catastrophe. He has sat on a garbage heap, scratching his sores with broken pottery. What a picture.

He survived his asshat friends asking him what he did wrong.

He has even survived the wrath of God for daring to ask God, “Why me???”

And his life takes another turn. He has more children. He has wealth. He has friends who come and love him. He lives to be old. I think it fair to say that he finds joy again.

Does that mean he doesn’t continue to mourn the children he has lost? Does that mean he doesn’t struggle with the knowledge that it can all be taken away again? I think not.

But he lives life again.

I don’t think this is a Hollywood ending. I think this is life, or it can be.

So many times, we have a wonderful phase of life. And then we have an excruciatingly bad time. Catastrophe. We feel like Job. We feel everything has been stripped away.

I do not count myself in this group. Little Warrior is alive and playing in another room. I have lost innocence, sure. I have lost time. But I have not lost everything, not even remotely close.

But I have seen my parents go through it. I have seen other friends, including my dear friend L who lost a son to leukemia years ago and was an angel sent to help me during LW’s first bout with the beast.

They’ve gone through feeling that life was not worth living, and never would be again. And yet … life returned. Joy returned.

As my friend L said to me, at one of the very worst moments, “You will get through this.”

I have seen others go through catastrophe – having to leave a partner who had mentally changed into someone else – and never quite recover. Losing a life they built. They say to themselves, “I have had my great joy. And now it is over. It will not come again.” They do not allow themselves to fully live again.

Job refutes that. The book of Job says, you can get through this. And life can be good again.

But you have to get through it. You have to say, I am not going to live the rest of my life in the shadow. I’m going to grab life and find meaning again.

I believe that happy endings are possible. But I also believe they take us making the choice, to say, “Yes. I will live. And I will live fully. Intentionally. And I will honor the gift of life by embracing it.” With all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.



Kim Hampton said...

Job is one of my favorites too. But I agree with your professor, the ending of Job reeks of being added on later. It's much too pat for me and let's G-d off the hook.

But then again, I'm always for the not-so-easy ending.

ms. kitty said...

Oh, LE, I read your post with so much admiration for your thought process, your experience, your wisdom, and then I found Chalice Spark's latest and am sitting here feeling profoundly blessed to have you both in my life. Thank you!

Obie Holmen said...

Have to agree with your professor on this one. The profundity of Job rests in the presence of God even in wretched despair. God is what's left when all else fails. Yes, there's hope and solace in that but not the Deuteronomist's deed/consequence--blessings/curses theology, which is what Job's author intended to correct, but somebody had to add the ending, thus watering down the wisdom of the rest.