Sunday, June 5, 2011

Out of the Whirlwind

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?"

-Job 38:31-33

Job was a whiner. Well, in his defense, a lot had happened to him - his family was dead, his money was gone, his body was full of disease, probably leprosy. And it all had happened after he had led what had always been considered, by everyone, "a good and pious life."

But still, he was a bit of a whiner. Read Job. You'll see.

I'm feeling a little like Job these days.

Which means, I think, that I've been asking questions similar to the ones that Job was asking, way back when. Sort of a "Why me, God? Why are you picking on me???" I had a plan, you know. And I believe we all had agreed to said plan. I know I agreed to it. (And then my home went up for sale, and my workload radically changed, and those last 15 pages of that new screenplay now appear as though they might get written sometime in 2025....)

And so, as I soldier on into my current fortunes, I think I've also been yelling at God. Or whoever. It hasn't been all that organized - maybe I've been yelling on the inside (as I buck up, and pull on those bootstraps...) But I've been, at a minimum, grumpy about the whole evolution of All That Had Been Planned.

The best laid plans... you know how the end of that sentence goes. Or, what's the other one - you know how to make God laugh, don't you? Just explain the plans you've made.... except I thought - I really did think - we were on the same page on these particular plans. I really did. I've been banking on it.

I think a little grumpiness is only fair. In fact, in recent days I've been thinking that Job was less of a whiner and more of a reasonable guy who just wanted a little fairness to come his way. That's the way karma should work, anyway.

So when I happened to read the above-quoted passage from the Bible, it woke me up a bit. Like Job, I needed a reminder: maybe I don't have a perfect handle on how this universe works, after all. And maybe I should give a little credit to the idea that there is an order to this apparently random chaos that will make itself clear, all in good time, regardless of my preferences. And maybe I don't know why - maybe I'll never know why - but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Job 38 is a fascinating chapter. It's when God's voice comes out of a whirlwind to Job and asks these kinds of questions. When Job asks God why - why? - are you punishing me? God in essence asks, why do you imagine that this is punishment? He asks it not in a one-word sentence but by pointing out to Job all the wonders of the universe that exist, even if they exist beyond human logic or comprehension. God essentially says, why do you have such a narrow view of the universe, that bad things happening to you must necessarily be retribution? Couldn't the world just be a little larger than that?

I love that the voice comes from a whirlwind. And I love the talk about the Pleiades and Orion. Well yes, I imagine those star formations had names back then too - though I don't think I knew they were known by those particular names. There's something ... infinite about God talking to Job about the Pleiades and Orion.

So then I did a little research, and found out that the questions posed by God actually have legitimacy in modern science. When God asks Job, are you the one who figured out how to "bind the chains of the Pleiades" while "loosening Orion's belt," God is actually foreshadowing heavenly circumstances that evolve over time. Apparently scientists predict that the Pleiades (Seven Sisters, actually about 250 stars congregated together) will ultimately stay clustered - or "chained" together, while Orion's Belt (the three stars in perfect alignment with each other) will, over time - lots of time - separate from each other - no longer stay in that alignment. In other words, the Belt will "loosen." So, wow. God says this to Job back before anyone knows that this all will happen in that way. Talk about Big Picture Thinking.

Here is a great article that talks through the comparison of what is said in Job and what is actually happening - it also goes into Arcturus (the Bear - "leading the Bear with its cubs") portion of this quote: After explaining the science, that writer states the "lessons" of Job as follows:

Few have suffered the multiple tragedies of Job. How could God reach through the enormity of Job's self-pity? (Job thought God just didn't care.) In these three questions (Job 38:31, 32) God is in reality saying:

Job, you think I am not concerned about your suffering. Well, let Me ask you these questions. Can you loose the bands of Orion? No, you cannot. But My Divine power will—some day Orion will no longer exist. Job, can you bind the 250 stars of the Pleiades together in their symmetry of beauty and not have a single one drift off? Only I have this power and wisdom. Can you prevent the runaways—Arcturus and his sons—from colliding as they go dashing out of the Milky Way? No, only My Divine power and wisdom can.

Job, if I am caring for the details of the universe, do you doubt that I not only care for the details of your life but I have the ability to solve your problems? Trust that there is a good reason I am permitting these tragedies. Remember, Job, I work from the perspective of your eternal welfare.

So, cool.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for my life. No leprosy here! I have a wonderful family, a supportive community, a profession (the law) that gives me the potential for instantaneous livelihood... Like Lou Gehrig, I am aware of and count my blessings, no matter if adversity has also presented itself. Still, this passage from Job helped put me back into perspective.

At the end of God's speech, Job says oops - I didn't think of it that way. Actually, Job says he'll shut up now ("I will lay mine hand upon my mouth," Job 40:4). Wise choice there, friend. Perhaps I'll do the same.

Now, back to work on this sunny Sunday morning...

No comments: