August 3, 2021
The Old Testament of the Bible contains an odd story, among many odd stories: the story of Job. For those not familiar with it, the plot revolves around a bet made between God and Satan in which Satan claims that no one is strong enough to remain faithful to God in the midst of unending adversity. Job, a faithful, righteous, and prosperous man, is selected as the “guinea pig” for the bet, and so his calamities begin.
This blog is not an interpretation of the Book of Job, but takes two passages from it that speak to today’s Covid situation in the United States. The first passage is from Chapter 38, verses 1-2, when God finally speaks after hearing a multitude of words from Job and his companions: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: ‘Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’” Clearly, we have been in a whirlwind since March 2020, and just as we thought the whirlwind might be sputtering out, it has reappeared with greater force as the Delta variant. And it spread and continues to spread by the proliferation of “words without knowledge.”
Words Without Knowledge
After listening to their queries, theories, and speculations, God basically is asking Job and his human companions exactly who they think they are. It is these same “words without knowledge” that infect each one of us, whether we actually contract the Covid/Delta virus or not. We read them. We hear them on the news. They spill out of the mouths of politicians. We share them with family members and friends. Tinier than the tiniest droplet of virus, these words are carried on the air and land on all of us.
What are these infectious words? They are words of division. Of superiority. Of ridicule. Of self-righteousness. Of fear. Of violence (Capitol attack, Jan 6, 2021). They are words of ignorance. Words of blame. Words of suspicion. Words of scorn. Often they are selfish and self-centered words. They are words that break down the system (our very country), not words that heal and unite. They are words that cause anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and hopelessness. They are Republican, Democratic, Independent words that know no single party or faith. Heated words. Searing words. “I am right and you are wrong” words that carry no real knowledge but which continue to infect and divide, again and again, into “us” and “them.”
A tiny virus has taught us that we cannot make creation, God, or others bend to our wills, and we are infuriated.
But there is a way out of this whirlwind, a way to avoid this virus. The second passage in the story of Job is found in Job’s reply to God, and it is a relevant piece of ancient wisdom: “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Chapter 40: 3-5). In the midst of adversity, Job chooses humility. Job doesn’t know why what is happening to him is happening. He is not going to spread conspiracy theories. He is not going to proclaim that he is more righteous or smarter than others. He is not going to spout his opinions or try to control others as if he were God because Job knows that he is not God. Neither are we.
I lay my hand on my mouth. The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.” How many of us are willing to lay our hands on our mouths during this ongoing pandemic, to attempt this way out of the whirlwind? How many of us are willing to admit with all humility that we don’t have all the answers? How many of us are able to make the decisions for ourselves that we feel we need to make, to take the actions that we believe are in our best interest, and then lay our hands over our mouths? When our words do not contribute to unity, to hope, to dialogue, to trust, and to healing, they are not words that need to be said, or spread.
For me, the words I need to anchor myself to are the teachings of the Christ. That is my faith tradition, the one I best know, the one whose words promise that the Light cannot be overcome. For others it may be the words of Yahweh, Allah, Nature, Spirit, Love, Poetry, the Universe. Wherever love is uttered, wherever peace is proclaimed, wherever the Light is shining is where we are called, now, to ground ourselves so that the virus cannot continue to take root in us.
Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@rosemarymcmahan