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Speaking to the Soul: Knowing and Not Knowing

Speaking to the Soul: Knowing and Not Knowing

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  Job 2:10

Kim Davis and Pope Francis walk into a bar.

“What’ll it be?” asks the bartender.

“Well,” says Kim Davis, “sometimes I feel like I am just a puppet for people who have their own agenda. I wish my story wasn’t subject to so much spin. Ya got anything for that?”

The pope sighed deeply and then said, “You know what? I have the same problem. Give me whatever she’s having, only make mine a double.”

Lots of people have lots of opinions about Kim Davis and Pope Francis. The one thing we all seem to agree on is that they are both being managed by spin doctors whose highest goal may not be full disclosure. They may not have sinned with their lips, but there has been deception on both sides, that’s for sure.

Job didn’t sin with his lips either. As an adviser to Pharaoh, he would have been shrewd about when to speak and when to keep his mouth shut. It is a skill that many of us have mastered too. Whether for the good of the company, the hope of a certain outcome, or just a desire to paint one picture instead of another, we know when to speak and when to simply remain silent.

There are some other silences in this story. The story doesn’t say what may have been in Job’s heart  or on his mind. There is a tanna which teaches that Job was being punished for his part in the enslavement of the Israelites. The tanna teaches that while Job did not think of the plan himself, he was silent about it. Maybe that is what he was thinking about. But, of course, it would have been imprudent to say it. In these types of silences we don’t sin with our lips, it’s our hearts and minds which are astray.

God is not very forthcoming either. He sends a member of his staff, Satan, to do his dirty work; and well-meaning, but incompetent friends to advise Job. Job is left to his own devices to figure out what is going on because God is remaining silent.

Job’s wife may not have been very helpful either, or she might have been. It’s argued that she had Job’s best interests at heart by urging him to die while he still had his integrity. Other things are argued as well. It would seem that Job and his wife have had their stories managed as much as Kim Davis and Pope Francis have.

We can’t tell anything about the inner life of Job, of God, or of Job’s wife. The only thing clear in today’s reading is the sheer volume of what we do not know.

Many years ago a colleague came to me distressed because he didn’t know what was going on with a campaign we were working on and he wanted me to tell him, which I did not. What I did say is that I feel like I always know what I need to know, so I don’t worry too  much about the things I don’t know. That has held true for me over the years, though it was not very comforting to my colleague.  Sometimes, though, I am a little like him. I really wish I knew what was going on with God. I wonder about what could be going on in the divine mind? I suspect that Job would have said the same. What could possibly be going on?

Like Job, you may have questions about why things have turned out as they have for you. Maybe you have looked, but just can’t see the hand of God in your life right now. Maybe you wish you understood why certain things have happened. Of course, all saints have had such questions. You and I are not unique.

There is something very simple that I like to remember at those times when things don’t make much sense. I remember that each day when the followers of Yahweh chant the Shema we sing the first verse loudly and with strength. For the second verse we sing softly, in a whisper. This reminds us that there are some things that we know, and some things that we do not know, sometimes we can hear God and sometimes we can not, but Adonai Echad! We can be comforted by the fact that God is still the one God, a God of integrity, not divided. God’s heart, mind, and lips are always on the same page even when ours aren’t.


Linda “Lindy” McMillan lives in Shanghai, China

Image:  Job Praying, Marc Chagall, 1960. Galerie Art Chrudim

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