Monday, 15 August 2011

Get a Job (Nananananananana)

I promised some Canadian chick that the next time I sat myself down to do a devotion I'd post it for her delectation, if delecatation is a word that can be applied to devotions. To be perfectly honest I'm a little bit uncomfortable about being so openly religious on this here blog, given that I'm not normally much of a bible-basher and in public I tend to enjoy laughing at aspects of my religion rather than defending it, but I'm going to give it a try anyway, since it's at least as much a part of me as wearing silly ties.

If me getting all Christian on your ass is disturbing, feel free to leave now and come back tomorrow, when I'll be talking about Japanese girls in short skirts. If you need something else to read right now, here's something a friend of mine recommended to the other day, which is kind of cute (it's a pity that the cute is ruined by the last two panels a little bit, but at least it's better than much of the rest of the archive, which is distinctly nsfw).

Anyway, my random flipping through the bible (I seem chronically unable to keep to any kind of reading plan or schedule) landed me in the Book of Job, in which Job despairs at the unfairness of his life and the cruelty of God; about the most cheery place a guy can end up when he's feeling down, except perhaps Lamentations or Jeremiah. The good thing about Job is that it's full of beautiful flowing poetic language like this little excerpt from 10:10-12:
Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese,
clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews?
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
It's very, very readable, and before long I found myself swept away in the language and the drama and distracted from the purpose of the reading, which is to gain something of an understanding of God as he applies to my life. Too often with bible readings, I have either this problem, or the problem of feeling like I know it all already, like I'm not learning anything new despite other people sharing their experiences and insights. Job has the same problem in 12:2-3, but he's much snarkier and ruder than I am, and responds to his friends thus:
Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!
But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all of these things?
The difference between Job and me is that it's right down there in the text that Job is a godly man, and Job does actually understand all the arguments that his friends are making in defence of God, whereas I just think I do. The fact remains, though, that too often I feel like I'm being taught something or am trying to teach myself something that I already know; and my university experience lets me know that nothing is as fun the second time around, be it Mathematics 1A or Theology 101.

However, since I know it's what I'm meant to do and somewhere deep down I really do think that it's good for me (probably more so than finishing up Pokemon Tower), I settled down and gave it a go, and blow me down if I didn't find something worth mentioning to a Canadian chick (and apparently the internet at large). At least, it seems to me where I'm at at quarter past twelve at night like it's worth saying (I'm writing this Sunday night for posting on Monday), I'm not saying anything new, to me or to anyone else, but right now it's encouraging. Hopefully the religious types amongst you might find it kind of interesting, and the irreligious ones might find it interesting from a scientific viewpoint, or something, and all of your will get some kind of idea of where I'm at just at this second, which is a nice little point of fellowship, I suppose. The text in question is Job 5:17-27:
Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.
In famine he will ransom you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the beasts of the earth.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
You will come to the grave in full vigour,
like sheaves gathered in season.
We have examined this and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.
That's some good advice there, thanks Eliphaz the Temanite! Contained here is the centre of apology, that God breaks down so that he can build, that the good of his actions in the world is greater than the evil, that he is at work for the ultimate blessing of his people; and we're called to submit to his discipline with joy. Now any concordance or preacher will tell you that Eliphaz and Job's other friends are off base because their advice is all based on the assuption that Job is a sinner when in fact Job is the apple of god's eye. In sermons time after time, I hear that we're supposed to hear the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu, but disregard them because Job has a better understanding of the Almighty.

With the way I've been feeling at the moment, though, my repeated refusal to acknowledge my own errors, the powerlessness to change the weaknesses that I do notice, it seems to me that Eliphaz is on the money (Often when I read Job I feel this way, that the theological statements of the 'wrong' friends are more useful than God's tirade of rhetorical questions come the end of the book). Instead of despairing that I am lost and confused, I should be watching out for my every mistake and actively trying to atone and correct for them, in my relationships, in my working life, and in all the other places too. This isn't anything groundbreaking, but at this moment I feel like it's a reminder that I needed, expressed in a way that I can get behind. Best of all, there is a promise that if I can reconcile myself to God's teaching in these ways that I will be rewarded, I'd like to pretend that I don't need a reward to want to do those things that I know are right, but I'd be a sucker to pass up a chance at things getting better instead of piling up getting worse.

So, it's time for a little more introspection (is that a word?). A little less time playing chess and a little more being helpful around home. A little less time spent sending silly personal emails and a little more getting down to business. Perhaps most of all, a little more time for devotion and prayer and a little less training up my Sandslash (which, I feel compelled to tell you, is kick ass).

Of course, this isn't something new for me, these are problems I constantly notice in myself and constantly fail to fix, mostly because I keep on thinking that I can do it alone. Chances are that if I continue making Monday a devotion post (which seems like a cool idea right now) it'll come up again and again, until you and I are bored to death of it. Anyway, until then, let me leave you with a little something from the Man himself, via Job 38:1-3, that I'll be using as the core of my focus tonight as a call to thoughtful prayer, expectant silence, introspection and acceptance...
Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.

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