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Seeking Understanding When Everything Has Fallen Apart

Welcome to the story of Job. It’s another of those stories that we don’t spend much time in and it can be difficult to understand. Here is a man who loved God, who was a good man, and God loved him back, but that doesn’t seem to stop everything falling apart for Job. Everything Job holds dear—his property, his family, his wealth, his physical health—has been taken from him. Reduced to suffering and misery, Job laments his circumstances and tries to make sense of what has happened to him. How do we also seek to make meaning of our pain? Ultimately, Job discerns that God is the source of all wisdom, and to turn away from evil is to turn toward the heart of the world, which God made good. Yet again this series raises questions that are already on our lips during this time of upheaval of the normal. Everything that we know has fallen apart, nothing is as we had hoped or planned and our normal way of life has indeed been unraveled. I’m reminded of the song “I never promised you a rose garden”. The first few lines of this song go like this: I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden Along with the sunshine There's gotta be a little rain some time When you take you gotta give so live and let live Or let go oh-whoa-whoa-whoa I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden It’s not always going to be just as we dreamed it, life will fall apart every now and again. We need to be like Job though, discerning that God is the source of all wisdom and the heart of the world. The Way to Wonder (Job’s Lament & Loss) – Acrylic on canvas inspired by job 28:12-28 Everything Job holds dear—his property, his family, his wealth, his physical health—has been taken from him. His life has unraveled in every way imaginable. How can we possibly make sense of the pain we endure, especially the pain we don’t cause or deserve? Much of Job’s journey requires him to untangle the punitive, quid pro quo theology he has absorbed. If I do good things, God will reward me. If I do bad things, God will punish me. On a cerebral level, I disagree with the logic of these words. But I remember how easily I can fall into the trap of feeling these words viscerally and bodily in moments of pain, especially in suffering that is so awful and unfair. When I first began this painting, I hoped to render Job’s hymn to wisdom visually. I imagined being stuck in the deep, as if my body was anchored underwater and I was looking up to the surface. I imagined textures and symbols emerging in the swirl of the dark to portray Job’s search for meaning, his grasping to find a way out. But as the painting came together, it was all wrong. The strokes and symbols were too literal, too formulaic. I almost scrapped the canvas altogether, but decided to keep going, to add more layers, more depth, more gold. A window, doorway, or portal emerged in the middle of the painting. I felt a release and realized that, while I started with lament, I ended with awe. “To fear God is wisdom” (Job 28:28). The Hebrew word for “fear,” yirah, literally translates to “awesome.” True wisdom lies in breathless reverence for God’s mystery and expansiveness—for God’s presence that is beyond what we can control, or reason, or make far too small. Lisle Gwynn Garrity

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