Job lived in the land of Uz. Anthony lives in the land of Here ‘n Now. Job, the Bible reports,was blameless and upright; he respected God and shunned evil. Anthony, though not having attained the Biblical credentials of Job (but definitely a human of note), is described by all who know him well as a good and decent person, compassionate and kind, hardworking, a person who shuns evil. While he comes from strong religious roots and was raised in a good church home, saved, baptized and a leader in his youth group of many years, he is not, at the moment, exactly happy with God. As his mother and one who studies theology for a hobby, I have to say that I understand, given what he is dealing with, why he wrestles daily with his God. I would think it unhealthy not to do so. And from my limited point of understanding about the vastness of God (Who can know Him?), I have to say that I think God welcomes and can handle the rage of those to whom an unforeseen life burden has been assigned – a burden that would cause others to wither on the vine of intestinal fortitude if they were so planted. I have read and re-read Job, chapters 1 & 2, as I sit at Anthony’s bedside trying to figure out that bizarre conversation between God and Satan.
That written account lacks a much needed opportunity to observe body language and hear the tone of voice in this life altering (for Job) conversation. I really think we might all have a whole other level of understanding if we could watch the hidden camera version. Well, the result of that conversation, for those of you who have not read it yet, is that God allows Satan to destroy, no – obliterate Job’s life as Job knows it, as if it were just a bet between them, to see if Job will react in a very human way by crying out in anger against God. What is that all about? So?! What if Job gets ticked? Is God so insecure that He can’t handle someone being ticked off at Him? Does God think Job is but a mere casino chip in a cosmic wager? I shake my head in wonder as I move slowly through this book trying to understand why God, as depicted in the Old Testament, would intentionally inflict such horror on one of His creations. (To my learned colleagues on campus – no need to send me your commentary on Job; I need to figure this one out myself – as does Anthony. And with all due respect, unless you are in the middle of a mess like this, I’m not going to hear much of what you say anyway. Sorry. Love you. But that’s just the way it is.)
So, the chips go down and the story goes on. Job loses his wealth and income in the form of all of his flocks being killed off. His entire family is killed, except his wife, who is no help at all in all of this (given her behavior and outbursts through all this, I have to chuckle to myself thinking Satan did not bump her off as she played a huge role in the horribleness of it all). And just when you think it cannot get any worse for this poor guy, God gives Satan the “go ahead” to inflict Job’s body with festering boils. Nothing like kicking a guy when he is down!
Well, like Job, Anthony has lost his income and we have no idea if and when he will be healthy enough again to hold a job that will support him. Like Job, Anthony has lost the one close to him – his beloved Samantha has decided to move on in her life. And just when you think it cannot get any worse for him, his lack of an immune system has left his system wide open for the infection that now plagues him AND one of his newly prescribed medications is causing his skin on his frail frame to erupt in all sorts of interesting ways. YO! Can we catch a break here, God?
There are two things I have learned so far from my readings in Job. First, (keep in mind this is a lesson in process ) I am learning to be a better listener. Job had some friends who came to see him, to console him. For seven days and seven nights all they did was simply sit next to him in the ashes, saying nothing, just being present as Job scraped his boils with a shard while trying to figure out the whole insane situation. I hold this image close to my heart especially when Anthony pleads with me to “Just listen, Mom! Stop trying to fix it!” When Job’s homies finally do speak, they speak as well intentioned friends who, in their own way, try to support Job – it backfires big time – lesson being it is better to just sit up and shut up when I have no clue whatsoever as to what it is like to be so destitute as to sit in ashes and sackcloth, covered with boils, grieving the loss of all I knew and loved.
Second, I have learned when your life is leveled like Job’s and Anthony’s, it is an opportunity to rebuild it bigger and stronger. I believe we are given experiences for a reason and that it is up to us to use those experiences to help others who will cross our paths in the future. Anthony is in an excellent position, as a result of this experience and along with his personal skills and smarts, to be one amazing Crohn’s counselor or healthcare worker if he so chooses. This experience is worth a thousand internships and an advanced degree. And if that’s the truth, then I do not believe God wagers with The Dark Side to see what will happen when we are hit with personal tragedy. Rather, I prefer to think of God in this situation as a great teacher, who, upon seeing His student ready, gives the mother of all assignments in the hopes the student passes and goes on to become a teacher of life themselves. It has to be. It’s the only thing that rings true in my soul. It is the only explanation that gives me hope that all will be well one day soon, ever reminding me of something a very wise person once told me; God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Job’s story has a happy ending – at least as happy as a story can get when the path to get there involves dead loved ones, collateral damage and other assorted calamities. God blesses Job with fortune and love far more than he lost. I can only pray that Anthony’s story will end in the same way.