I remember, when I was about seven or eight, going to see an elderly neighbour. I think I might have kicked a football into her garden or something. In any event, she was exasperated and muttered [as I thought] “By Job…!” Fresh from Sunday school, and with little knowledge of Roman gods, I wondered what a biblical character had to do with my football. But maybe we should all go around muttering ‘By Job’…?
Job was an ordinary person, living an ordinary life. OK, with all those sheep, camels, yoke of oxen and she asses, a wealthy ordinary person, but ordinary in the sense that he was living without particular incident. Not doing anything special or heroic but being “blameless and upright”. That is important because in our society there is a great deal of emphasis on doing lots of impressive things, whether winning a talent competition, or running huge distances, or travelling to some distant place ‘to tick something off my bucket list’. This is all encouraged by the media, including social media. I suspect that, in an age when God is not thought about, it is an attempt to gain some kind of human based recognition and importance, even ‘eternal’ life. Previous generations have better known that God sees us and knows all we do.
Our wonderful Cornish author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, himself quoting a dramatist, says that the life of the every day is far more real, and far more akin to the true self that is in us, than great adventure. It is “to reveal to us how truly wonderful is the mere act of living… in the midst of ever-restless immensities”.
This goes a long way to helping us to understand the ‘hidden’ years of our Lord. It’s probably not that there were lots of exciting things that we don’t know about, but that he lived an ordinary life with little incident. Like Job, he was “blameless and upright”. Then, when he was needed, he stepped up to three years of incredible challenge. Maybe even those forty post-resurrection days, about which we know so tantalisingly little, were also some kind of return to the ordinary, albeit in a resurrected body. Perhaps that is eternity- gaining so much from ordinary things, and serving God by eating a breakfast of fish and bread?
That’s not a call never to do anything in particular. Jesus knew the call when it came and answered- not when he was an idealistic young person wondering what to do to make his mark in life, but just as he was settled. In the same way, we may be called- to suffer pain or loss, or to care for a person who has become unwell, or to take up a new vocation or act of service. It is our Lord who calls us in His time, and according to His wisdom. It is sometimes said that “every time God calls us, He calls us to inconvenience”!
Both Job and our Lord Jesus understood this aspect of wisdom; Job himself called it [to bring in one of my favourite chapters of the Bible!] “a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen” [Job 28:7]
Almighty God and Father, you have created me and have a plan for every step of my life. It is a plan that sometimes only you may understand. When I accept and follow your plan, you see it.
By your spirit, help me to hear your call, whether to live with gentleness, or to suffer with patience, or to act with courage.
In everything, following the example of your faithful son Jesus Christ.
by Dave Pitcher