Job’s New Beginning
by Anne Gross
When we think of the end of Christmas and the coming of New Year’s Day, probably the most common thought that taps the heads of the human population is that highly-charged, highly inspiring, often iron-heavy phrase called New Year’s Resolutions.
Just now, as I typed that phrase, I smiled but then sighed.
I don’t believe in them much, but I still like to make them. I just tend to carve a pair of quotation marks around that phrase anymore. I haven’t looked on Wikipedia or Answers.com for any definition help, but it seems easy to see New Year’s Resolutions as a hearty list of plans and equipment for climbing (this time I’ll do it, I know!) that Mount Everest called the New Year.
This year left me a bit dazed, though, and my brain is a little too fried to tell me what my plans are. I’m tired from figuring out the family dinner menus and homeschool twisty-turnings and ministry dreams and crashes and joys. I’ve been shell-shocked from the loss of a family member. I’ve grabbed the tail of a kite and sung a thousand songs from a thousand feet up, and I’ve landed in the bushes and forgotten what the point was. I’ve prayed for friends this year who have had loved ones suddenly die, or marriages that smashed up their trust in human beings.
I need something more than a resolution.
A few days ago, I thumbed through the book of Job a little, since Job had had more trauma than just a dazed system or a blue mood. Whenever I think of the story of Job, I usually think of the challenges of a hurt and angry man, a sharp rebuke from God, and the restoration of property. But this time, I saw something I had never seen before.
Job had no to-do list or resolution. Job had no determination to get his ducks in a row. Job had a New Beginning. And his New Beginning started, not with restored property, but with something shocking yet strangely familiar. A character I recognize.
There it is. He’s there, the silhouette on the page. It’s the indulgent father of the Prodigal Son, and he comes running before his boy has hardly confessed anything.
Right there it is, in Job 42. After Job challenges God to a day in court and gets God’s thunderous slideshow of wonders, then repents and says, “Oh, I didn’t understand . . . You’re right,” God stops, looks at Job’s friends, and says something that absolutely blasts my mind.
“You have not spoken of me what is right, as My servant Job has . . . My servant Job will pray for you.”
Job, in a brief moment, changes his mind, says one true thing about God; and God forgets all about everything else. He holds Job up as His trophy. That simply.
The only thing I can think of that even comes close is a gullible little kindergärtner who completely forgets his fight with his bullying playmate and instantly becomes best friends again; and away they skip to the monkey bars, hand in hand, as if nothing had ever happened.
And in Job’s New Beginning, God is more extravagant than said kindergärtner, who brings his friend home and gives him his remote control Hot Wheels in one impulsive swoop that will likely get him into big trouble with Mom when she finds out. God gives Job as many children as he’d had before, comforting friends, and an avalanche of wealth . . . just because.
Once again, I repent in dust and ashes for my dismally distorted way of seeing God. I have not one clue how loving, strong, and wise He is.
I still have my little things I’d like to see changed in 2012 . . . habits I’d like to break, things I’d like to get done. But what I need most is a New Beginning. What my soul needs is Grace. What I need to hold in my hand is the liberating truth that God is for me, that He will stop at nothing to help me grow into the thing of beauty He planned for me to be all along, that He is in charge of me, that He loves me. Really, really loves me, in the craziest way.
That truth will make everything possible. That Grace will make us fly.
We are wound-tight, near-sighted ultra-conservatives compared to what is real. We’re like Job, who starts to think our Father doesn’t care that much. We’re like Job’s friends, who think the bad stuff must be happening because God doesn’t approve of us.
And all along, God may be bragging on us. He might be showing off our picture from His open wallet, whether we think we’re flops, or whether we’re a little too proud of ourselves. At this moment any one of us might be feeling like losers, red-faced with shame, doubled over with weeping, or picturing God’s frown. In reality, we might be making a laughingstock of the Devil and proving him wrong once again.
Job’s story is not an exceptional case, though. Sprinkled all throughout the Old and New Testaments are little stories of people who have their faces turned away from God; then, when they make feeble attempts to confess, He comes running. Fast.
This is the kind of God we have. The Maker who has the right to direct the paths of His creations. The Father who loves His creatures with a velvety passion. The Genius who turns around fear and pain and evil and draws the math to add up to a good that makes a cynic sing. This is what changed Job. Not the wealth, children, and livestock added back to him. And certainly not a list of resolutions. Job got a new beginning, and a new hope, because he saw God for who He really was.
May we see God as He really is in 2012. The magical Genius, the affectionate Father, the powerful Whirlwind, all in one. And the One who is for us. He has a story, a wonderful story. And no matter how 2011 went, the story isn’t over.