Day #21: Decentering Ego

Where were you
when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me if you know.
-Job 38:4

Job is arguably the most downer parts of the Bible. (And the Bible has a lot of downer parts. In one of them, God dies.) Job 38 is the passage where God finally, finally speaks back into Job’s tortured sorrow. For 38 chapters, Job has been questioning God, saying, “My children are dead, my wealth is gone, and my friends are a bunch of insensitive victim-blaming jerks. Why, God?” And when God finally deigns to speak, God goes all Kendrick Lamar on some, “Sit down, be humble” vibe. God says, “Oh, you have questions? Well I have questions, too. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” Not helpful, God. But then again, maybe once in a while, it can be comforting. God continues on, asking Job if he can leads the constellations across the sky or call forth sea monsters to play with his children; if he knows where mountain goats give birth or why the ostrich is so dumb (cf. 39:13-18). God never apologizes or explains why so much horror happened to Job. Maybe God doesn’t have an explanation. Maybe what happened is inexplicably tragic, and not even the Creator of the Universe can justify the pain Job went through. But what God does say is: “The universe is bigger than you.” There are worlds and worlds beyond your tragedies, there are lives and moments continuing on. This is one of my very favorite Bible passages, because it is so refreshing to remember the universe does not revolve around me. Whatever is going on in my life, in some corner of the universe something awe-inspiring is happening. A horse is dancing. The mountains are standing still, just being mountains. Just being a place where my problems are not.

Takeaway: It can be an act of resilience to remember that the universe is big enough to contain your pain—and much more than your pain. No matter how overwhelming it is, there is something else in the universe. This week, when stress starts spiraling up your body and everything feels like it’s about to fall apart, stop. Breathe. Remember that somewhere out there, there’s an ostrich “flap[ping] joyously… God didn’t endow her with sense… but when she flaps her wings high, she laughs at horse and rider” (38:17). Breathe again. Go on, knowing the universe is big enough for all your pain. And the ostrich.

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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Day #10: Confidence

But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know such things as these?
-Job 12:3

It’s hardest to write what you don’t feel. In all honesty, when I looked at my notes for today’s topic, I wanted to skip Confidence. I’m not feeling very confident at the moment. No reason; I’m getting miles of positive feedback right now that should put my confidence through the roof. But emotions are fickle things, they don’t always follow logic. Which is perhaps why I’m turning to Job for insight on confidence. As a book, Job is mostly an argument between friends and at this point, it’s getting heated. Just before this, Job made the sarcastic comeback, “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you,” (meaning, you will be the death of wisdom). For 37 chapters, Job’s friends insist he must have done something to be abandoned by God and there must be some “everything-happens-for-a-reason” feelgood conclusion to the tragic death of all his children and livestock and also his sudden painful acne. Through it all, Job’s confidence gives him resilience. He argues that everything doesn’t happen for a reason, that God is not out to get him, and that God loves him. He stays confident that he is no less deserving of love that anyone else and, after 37 chapters, God jumps into the argument to take Job’s side. Sometimes, confidence is the willingness to insist you are deserving of love and dignity—even when you don’t feel it, you keep speaking it as truth. Because somewhere deep down, you know it is.

Takeaway: Ugh, now you (I) have to go live out the confidence you (I) don’t necessarily feel. Borrow a cue from Job’s resilient strategy—“I have understanding as well as you,” he says. Job gives himself affirmation to get through this argument and to insist on his worthiness. Write down five quick affirmations for yourself. Any topic “I have great eyelashes,” “My home is just perfect for me,” “I like that I went to the gym yesterday,” “I noticed a robin this morning.” Pick one of those affirmations and write it 10 times (or more). Because it’s true, every time. And sometimes you just need to hear it 10 times to remember that it is.

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).