I was reading either Spiritual Canticle or the Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross (I can't remember which), when John, commenting on the necessity of being able to endure suffering, pointed out that Job's reward for his suffering was the privilege of seeing God. At the time, I remember thinking, "Wow, John thought what happened to Job was terrific," then continued to the next chapter.
For some reason, It suddenly hit me how to "parable-ize" Job along the lines of how John of the Cross saw it, instead of how we read it.-
- Joe is a manager of a division of 100 people with a 10 million dollar budget in a huge, and hugely successful, corporation headed by the founding CEO.
- A former employee of the CEO makes snide remarks about Joe's loyalty when the CEO boasts of how well Joe manages the division. The CEO decides to demonstrate Joe's loyalty by disolving the division and putting Joe in a janitorial position.
- Joe's visited by three friends from different divisions of the company, who mutually opine as to why the CEO hates Joe at the cafeteria. Joe can't recall how he PO'ed the boss off, while the others insist he did and citing aspects of the CEO's behavior as a reason (despite none of them ever having met the CEO personally). Joe's kinda ticked at the CEO because there's nothing in the policy book about an appeals process that he could use to address his gripes with the CEO, and uses that to criticize the company and the CEO. They are joined by a snotty-nosed kid from Princeton assigned to the mail-room who tries his hand at criticizing Joe while brown-nosing the CEO and insisting no policy book is required.
- Suddenly, the CEO comes into the cafeteria, calls Joe aside to a corner table, and spends two hours talking to Joe about the divisions of the company and how he put them together to form the company he runs, clearly irritated that Joe's loyalty to him, while substantial, did not come up to the level the CEO expected of him. Joe hardly says a thing, awestruck both by meeting the CEO of the company and by how well-put together is the company. He still doesn't know why his division was dissolved and why he was put down as a janitor at the end of the conversation, but he is very convinced that the CEO knows what he is doing, and verbally admits its pretty stupid to demand a policy provision that challenges the CEO, given how he built the company from nothing and how well he arranged everything.
- The CEO leaves Joe at the far table, comes to the table with the friends (the snotty-nosed kid long gone), and tells the senior one he's pulling their security badges, and that if they want to continue working with the company that they have to get Joe to re-authorize them. After saying that, and nothing else, he's gone.
- Almost immediately after Joe reinstates the security clearance of his friends, he is re-promoted to being the manager of a division with twice the employees and twice the budget of the one that he had before.
Based on the above re-casting of the Job story, is it really reasonable to think that the CEO stayed mad at Joe? I would think that any manager of that company would, after what happened to Joe, hope to get busted to Janitor, get two hours of face time with the CEO (no matter what he said during that time), and wind up with a bigger fiefdom! That's exactly what all the monks and nuns and priests during the middle ages thought when they read Job, and was probably the real reason why they undertook such severe penances: to them, any sort of bodily suffering was worth getting direct 'face time' with God, even if the conversation during that time would be onesided and makes you feel like a fool. This attitude was reflected by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross' student in Mystical Theology, and accounts for pretty much all of the "suffering is good for you" rhetoric you find in those pre-modern Roman Catholic writers.
Well, like everything else, while the willingness to do what it took to get face-time with God is something I know I definitely need to emulate, the diagnosis was a bit deficient: All through the book of Job, Job is complaining about not being able to address God directly about the situation and having to endure the comments of guys who patently knew less about God than he did. He pines for a Judge he can go to who could get God and himself on terms that would allow equitable communication, and laments that its not possible since such a Judge would have to be bigger than His God, which was obviously a logical impossibility.
Guess what? God answers Job's prayer and shows up!
Now that I think about it, I just realized that God answered all of Job's prayers, but having an audience with God to complain about his suffering was all that Job prayed for. The record plainly states, very favorably, the fact that Job did not curse God, and submitted to what happened as if it came from God, but that same record does not state that Job prayed about the situation at all! Job prayed for an audience with God and eventually got it. He prayed for his friends, and got that as well.
And just as significantly, he did not get that for which he did not pray.
And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul.
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.
Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."
--Tennyson. "L'Morte D'Arthur"
2010-11-16 09:17:04 by Gerald