The Daily Office sees for today finish ultimately the epic of Job, with Job 42:1 -1 7
It is supposed by some to be a happy objective. God, after reminding Job of that he is no match for God nor the chaos that has passed him, rebuilds his fortunes, affording him with twice the money in his hoard, twice the troops of sheep, camels, oxen, even twice the donkeys.
But there is no replacing what has been lost. Job’s skin will remain disfigured; his “hairs-breadth” will not grow back; his trust in his family and friends, who now gather around to congratulate him on his recovery of status and stature, will always bear the crackings “thats been” modelled around the fire as he was sitting in the ashes of his old life.
The number of daughters and sons that Job has at the end of his narrative is the same as at the beginning. It is a sign, perhaps, of that tender target that his daughters now, instead of being summoned to their brothers’ lives for hospitality, share an inheritance of their own; as though Job would not have them dependent on his fortunes or those of his sons any longer; as though he no longer relied in posterity. They are the same in list; although their figures are new , no doubling , no multiplication can kill the reminiscence of those who led before them.
Is this a happy culminate?
Is it an resolving?
Fire and flood, hurricane and pestilence, carnage, quarrel, and rumours of strife surround us. We wonder, often and aloud, what will come of it, what will be our “new normal, ” when this is “all over; ” we look forward to the restoration of our riches, to our recuperation. But we know, from our region in the cold ashes next to Job and his old friends, that whatever happened next, there is much that will not be undone.
There are gaps and there is destruction; there are blemishes and there is loss; there are disappointments against God and humanity and the church that will not readily forget about him, repented, or reconciled.
Yet through the chaos, God speaks faithfulness: the truth that Jesus learned through Incarnation, that the Spirit renders in sighs and screams and silence; that God knows some hurts will not be healed, merely mitigated, only placated, simply consoled by the demands of love.
It is the promise of God’s sorrow that Job is given another mouth to feed, another refer to choose, another life to love. It is the sign of God’s understanding, God’s steadfastness to God’s little ones, God’s compassionate grief and splendor, that God does not attempt to redouble the number of Job’s children, that God’s hand is stayed, standing the temptation to overwhelm grief with magnanimity, to undercut world with fairy tale terminates, to claim that life does not go on, with its ordeals and its wraps and its scars.
It is God’s stern and irrefutable blessing that successions rejoice, that grains joy, but that does not command any more than a broken heart can bear.
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Floors of Love, Loss, and Longing. Her blog is over the water @ rosalindhughes.com
Image: Detail from Loutherbourg’s Vignettes for Macklin’s Bible( 1795) Philip Medhurst, Public Domain, via wikimedia commons
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