Ash Wednesday Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

“Therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job: 42:6

“You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”
Psalm 51:6

God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind William Blake, 1757-1827
God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind
William Blake, 1757-1827

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition I knew about Ash Wednesday but the community I worshiped in didn’t celebrate it.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, and living in California, that I really understood that having a smudge of ashes on my forehead meant repentance.  Repentance is not just saying sorry, it means examining my past behavior and then changing what I do in the world, turning my actions around to behave as the faithful follower of Jesus I wish to be. And unless I begin the process of change, or at least try to repent, I have not truthfully repented.  Because repentance is a spiritual practice God knows  I will stumble and have to start all over again.  Failing isn’t seen as failure, but as one more step in changing from the old me to the new me.

In today’s world people blithely say they are giving something up for Lent. Often it is some type of food, drink, or action, such as weight loss or smoking none of which really affect our lives and like New Year’s resolution never keep.  That is not what the repentance of Ash Wednesday or the time of Lent is.  No, it means looking closely at what we do every day and then vowing to the Holy Spirit to change some aspect of our life to fit more closely with the teachings of Jesus.  To do that is a truly meaningful act of fasting and repentance; also a very difficult one.  But remember failing to keep your promise is only failure if you don’t start over right where you left your fasting path.

So the spiritual practice for this week is to prayerfully look at your life and what you do every day.  Is there something in need of changing?  Is there something you could do better, or begin to do, which would bring new meaning to your life?  Then, for your Ash Wednesday statement of repentance, choose to promise God you will repent and change; then practice changing your actions for Lent.  Don’t feel discouraged if it is difficult and you have trouble getting started, just keep trying and taking your discouragement to God in your prayer practice.  After all there is a reason it’s called a “practice.”

May your Lenten meditations and fasting bring joyful changes into your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 9, 2016

JOB’S WIFE

Scripture: Job 2:9-109Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.”10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

I am taking a class on “Job and the Mystery of Suffering” this quarter and when we were assigned this passage to write on for this week I found it way more interesting than I thought I would.  The book of Job is a difficult book at its best and when I read it the first time I started having questions about Job’s wife but couldn’t find anything about her.  She is mentioned only twice and is never named and in a culture where remembering your name when you’ve died is your immortality that is complete death.  So I want to take her part, I want to be her advocate, I only have questions

I get the feeling here that Job’s wife is feeling real pain; she has after all, just like Job, lost everything and is grieving deeply.  While this may be the story of Job his wife, who is allowed to live through this experience with him, is always forgotten.  You can hear her frustration and pain most clearly in the paraphrase bible, The Message, where she says:  “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!”  Here is a woman in pain whose feelings are being ignored not just by Job but by God as well.  Job tells her to quit talking like a “Shameless, Harlot, Fool,” and accept whatever God hands them.  (Mind you he is kind enough not to call her those things, just stop talking like them.)  She is a side effect of the Adversaries bet with God, and if Job doesn’t deserve such suffering, she certainly doesn’t.  According to the bet with God the Adversary was to test Job not his wife, so why is she being tested along with him?  Or is this one of those patriarchal editorial jobs that just manages to forget to add that Job’s wife was just as faithful to God as Job was and she too was being tested?  I have only questions because there is no information on this forgotten lady, even her name is gone and in a name forgotten was true death.

One of the reasons I am asking these questions is because of what Crenshaw (Crenshaw, James L.; Reading Job, a Literary and Theological Commentary, Smyth & Helwys, Macon GA, 1984, pg 45) says concerning the Hebrew word for curse, barak, which he says is difficult to interpret and may actually mean blessing, which changes the meaning of the wife’s words to “Bless Elohim and die victoriously.” Now that is interesting, because the wife in that version seems to be saying just be done with it, if God wants Job dead, then be done with it and die a virtuous man.  Job, on the on the other hand, tells her I’m not giving up, I will accept what I’m given, if I’ve done anything to offend God then I deserve what I’ve gotten.  Job doesn’t know what he did but he’s going to stick around and demand more information.  As I looked for reasons for Job’s stubbornness I looked back at the Pentateuch and found in Deuteronomy 28:1-68 something rather interesting.  In this chapter Moses tells the people of God that if they follow all of God’s commandments they will be blessed and if they don’t then they will be cursed.  In fact, Deuteronomy 28:38 (“The LORD will afflict you at the knees and thighs with a severe inflammation, from which you shall never recover—from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head” [italics mine]) describes exactly what the Adversary does to Job in verse 2:7 (“The Adversary departed from the presence of the LORD and inflicted a severe inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” [italics mine]). If Job is as faithful to God as the prologue says then he knew full well what was said in Mosaic Law and that meant he must have done something wrong, he just doesn’t know what it was.  Job’s wife is ready to give up and go to her rest, Job is not.

©Ruth Jewell, January 25, 2012