Saturday, February 14, 2009

thoughts on Job and friendship

I should add "n Stuff" to the title, since I can't promise anything profound here. And it's Valentine's Day tomorrow -- I know people with big plans. I am not one of these. My husband abhors big plans. But it looks like he got me a card, which is nice. I got him one too. And did some baking.

I have friends, close friends, who have suffered and are, in ways big and small, suffering. We all do, of course -- in ways big and small -- but contextually my concerns are pretty minor right now. Sure, I have my little fits of pique now and then. I get tired, stressed, I start blaming my job and the people around me. Sometimes there's a little validity to that, but whatever. Right now, the experiences all seem to run to life's major themes -- suffering, responsibility, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, determination, patience, hope. And it creates the need for a little pause, here and there; a little distance in these relationships, sometimes intentional. After much intense consultation of one sort and another, the problems progress or resolve, the pendulum swings.

It's not like the grief of one's friend when they've lost a loved one -- these quandries don't call for large volumes of comfort necessarily. Or did, but don't right now. Earlier this week, I wanted to reply to some comments one friend made about why she's committed to the church -- comments made time and again, about the desire for community versus genuine feelings of deep faith -- and I know suffering is a keen theological issue for this person as she leans away from crediting herself with a deep faith. So I went hunting through Job, having read it through entirely only once, thinking some insight would be inherent. Something I could share, an encouragement apart from human authority. What I found was, of course, not that at all. And in a certain sense, Job is a treatise on friendship -- on what's expected of you when your friend has sunk low in life. It's a story with a decent message, I think, but a problematic outcome. Problematic if you haven't fully accepted the message, that is. And finally, neither of my good friends has suffered the trials of Job, thank God. (Though a number of other friends would surely point out the irony in that statement of gratitude.)

It's a slow night for email, for Facebook and all my other venues for staving off loneliness. There are many reasons for this I'm sure. And this sort of uncharacteristic vacuum leaves too much space in which to wonder about causes, and wonder I do. Wondering, and snacking. BAD...whoops, I just published when what I meant to do was save the draft. Drat.

Anyway. At one point Job is disgusted with his friends, none of whom have anything more insightful to say than "Well, you must have brought it on yourself somehow. Be grateful things aren't worse." And Job says, "What, have I asked you for money? Have I asked you for representation? You guys are just saying these things to reassure yourselves that what's happening to me won't happen to you. You're lousy friends." And that's no lie, right there. I'm hoping I haven't crossed that line with anyone, but I'll admit there's some semblance of all that in what caused me to crack Job in the first place. Looking for some sort of justification along with the comfort. Looking for a case. Speculating as to cause.

Thorny stuff. I love both of my troubled friends to pieces, love them dearly, and have really laid down every emotion there is to some degree over the past few months or so. Now they are both off dealing with their thoughts in their own ways, and I can't decide whether I've done enough, or too much. Or not enough at all.

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