She felt as though her life was some kind of hellish test; as though the universe was conspiring against her; like the powers of heaven and hell were battling it out as she was carelessly tossed to and fro in the middle. Hardly a martyr or victim, she was not someone determined to “make sense” of her circumstances by blaming anyone else. She simply looked around at the endless and inexplicable realities of her life and realized that every single one of them was out of her control; that no platitudes or promises of a God who had bigger or better plans would begin to suffice.
Her husband, however, had a different viewpoint. He held fast to his belief that anything that happened to him (and by association to her) was just, fair, not to be questioned, and to be borne with immovable dedication and commitment. He dug in his heels, stood by his beliefs, and declared his faith in the goodness of God.
Some would say he was a saint. She wasn’t one of them. She didn’t buy one bit of it. And finally, one day, she had enough. She said,
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
These are the words of the wife of Job.
Two sentences that have lived in infamy. And not surprisingly, she’s been shamed for them for centuries. Her husband did the same.
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
This story is not a favorite of most who are familiar with scripture. 42 chapters that tell of a duel between God and Satan with Job as unwitting pawn. It conjures up every existential and theological question in existence (which might actually be why the story exists in the first place). We struggle to understand how/why God would ever agree to such a thing, not to mention encourage it and allow the incredible torment, disaster, and grief that Job (and his wife) then endlessly endure.
It is not my intent or my desire to argue such questions. First, because they are impossible to answer, but second and more importantly,because when we even attempt such, our focus shifts and we lose sight of her (not to mention the generations of women who both preceded and followed).
It is my intent (and deep, ongoing desire), however, to name and honor her: her thoughts, her stance, her voice, and yes, even her beliefs (or lack thereof).
She spoke her mind.
She articulated her heart.
She expressed what she actually felt.
She told the truth as she saw and experienced it.
Boldly and unswervingly she revealed her humanity in the face of inhumanity.
She called forth justice in bold and impossible-to-ignore ways.
And she had no intention of sitting back, playing small, or staying silent.
(Think about it, about her: we heartily affiorm and encourage every bit of this in one another; on our own behalf, as well.)
We would do well to follow her lead.
Job’s wife proclaims out loud what all of us, at least in part, want to say when we find ourselves in circumstances that cannot possibly be understood. Yes, we want to believe in a benevolent, generous, gracious, and kind God; but there are times, to be sure, when every possibility of such feels tested, if not foolish. And, simultaneously, just like her, we still have the capacity to stay and survive in places of extreme ambivalence when answers elude. We somehow make room for mystery. We know that there have been, are, and will be times in which we cannot make sense of our own reality, let alone that of the larger world that spins uncontrollably around us.
In truth, Job’s wife mirrors back our capacity and courage in the most sacred of ways, not shameful ones. Her story graciously offers us a glimpse of the Divine; a celestial honoring of a woman’s truth-telling and strength.
Did you catch it? As Job’s story continues, he loses everything – his their children, his their land, his their livestock, his their livelihood. But he does not lose his wife. She is the one and only entity spared throughout the entire travesty, and this, after she speaks her truth. This is not the God we normally see in this story – or our own. This is a God who despite everything, and above all else, saves her. This dare not
be underestimated. Nor dare she…
And as for her, so too, for you.
Your voice, your truth, your courage is stamped with the approval of the Divine. More, you are deemed worthy by Job’s wife herself. She looks at you unflinchingly and says, “Yes, you are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.”*
Think of it: who and how might you be if befriended, companioned, and mentored by Job’s wife? What truth-telling might you voice? What injustice might you name? What courage might you display? What strength might you reveal?
Job’s wife is your matriline. Her blood flows through your veins. Her voice rings when you speak your mind. And in honoring her, you are the one transformed.
May it be so.
It’s understandable why we struggle with scripture when faced with stories like this one, which is exactly why I am so
determined to tell of the women within in ways that free them from the chains by which they’ve been bound. They are so
amazing, so incredible, so persevering, so determined. They deserve to be known.
You, me, all of us are in such good company. A cloud of witnesses that surrounds. A storyline and bloodline from which we descend. A transcendent and transfiguring chorus that endlessly uplifts. What can’t we do or say, really, with this much support, this much beauty, this much wisdom in our midst?
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