Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Cinematic Grace February 21, 2012

Filed under: Job — Stephanie Rische @ 1:38 pm
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Before we started watching The Tree of Life, our friend warned the group, “This isn’t your typical movie. It’s more like a poem in visual form.” We looked at him rather skeptically—even more so when he mentioned the twenty-minute segment with no words. Okaaay…this was clearly not going to be your traditional Hollywood “boy meets girl” flick or your “bad guy tries to blow up the world” movie.

I was surprised to see that the opening quote came from the book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4). The story traces a boy’s growing-up years as he wrestles with the tension between grace and nature. His mother, the personification of grace, swirls him around in the backyard, playfully squirts him with the garden hose, and showers his life with laughter. His father is nature—embodying the idea that you get what you earn in life, that if you work hard enough, you’ll end up on top.

The movie poses this unspoken question: what happens when life isn’t fair, when you get what you don’t deserve? Is it possible to keeping clinging to grace, despite all seeming evidence to the contrary?

This is, when it comes down to it, the underlying question posed in the book of Job as well. Yes, Job’s technical question is Why? But there seems to be a deeper layer to his queries. The truth is, no answer would have satisfied him. There is no reason, no explanation that from Job’s human perspective would have justified the devastating losses, the crushing defeats, the deaths of the people he loved.

So God, in his mercy, responds to a different question.

He reminds Job of his credentials—essentially that he holds nature, in all its mystery and splendor, in the palm of his hand—but also that he treats his children with compassion and gentleness (Job 38-39).

For all those chapters of back-and-forth between Job and God, the book pretty much boils down to one simple exchange.

Job asks God, “Why?”

And to Job’s amazement, God responds with another question altogether: “Who?” 

Who determined the earth’s dimensions?
Who kept the sea inside its boundaries?
Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
Who laid out the path for the lightning?
Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground?
Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?
Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
Who provides food for the ravens?
—from Job 38 

In my quest for grace, it just may that I’m sometimes asking the wrong question. Maybe when God seems silent, it’s not that he’s not answering. It’s that he’s answering a different question.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

The Grace of the Middle Man February 17, 2012

Filed under: Job — Stephanie Rische @ 8:02 am
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If you met my dad under normal circumstances, he’d prefer to have you assume he’s a plumber. He doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes that go with his profession, and as a matter of fact, he does have a knack for fixing leaky faucets.

But if one of his kids is in trouble, he doesn’t hesitate to pull out the tricks of his trade. In my early twenties as I was venturing out on my own, if he felt someone was trying to take advantage of me—whether it was an insurance company, an employer, or some shady individual—he was there for backup.

“You tell them your dad will call them,” he told me. “And if that doesn’t work, tell them your lawyer will call them.” Lucky for me, I had two for the price of one.

Job lived in an era when there were foreshadowings of grace—little whispers leading up to the coming of the Redeemer—but the fulfillment was still fuzzy. As he cried out in the aftermath of his string of personal tragedies, he found himself desperate for a middle man, a lawyer, a mediator—someone to stand between him and God and plead his case.

If only there were a mediator between us,
someone who could bring us together. . . .
Then I could speak to [God] without fear,
but I cannot do that in my own strength.
—Job 9:33, 35

I suspect Job had no idea how prophetic his words were. In Christ, we have just that—a mediator to graciously plead our case before a holy God.

So the next time our sin plagues us, we can say with confidence, “Talk to my Dad.” And if that doesn’t work: “Talk to my Lawyer.”

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

From the Hand of God February 10, 2012

Filed under: Job — Stephanie Rische @ 1:14 pm
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Newsflash from my chronological reading: apparently Job comes after Genesis! Who knew?

I opened up my Bible all ready to turn the page to Exodus, but to my surprise, Job supposedly dates to approximately the time of Abraham and the patriarchs.

I have to admit I gulped a bit when this revelation struck. I mean, it’s one thing to trace the thread of grace through some of those classic Old Testament stories, but honestly, where’s the grace in this account? Almost the entire book feels like a series of one-two punches for our poor buddy Job.

Here’s the scene: God starts bragging on Job to Satan, and what happens? Job promptly loses his livelihood, his possessions, and his children, all in the course of 24 hours. Then he loses the one thing he has left: his health. Where’s the mercy in a story like that? Doesn’t Job, at the very least, deserve some kind of extreme circumstances caveat? Three KOs in one day, and you’re permitted to have a breakdown—or least do some serious bellyaching?

But to my surprise, here’s how Job responds in the wake of his tragedies: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10).

Youch.

I like to think of grace as the hug after the bike spill, not the tumble itself…the rainbow, not the preceding storm…the spoonful of sugar, not the medicine.

In light of Job’s story, I wonder if there’s something a little off about my definition of grace. Am I able to take what comes from the hand of God, even when it falls outside of what I consider gracious?

I’m not quite there yet. But when it comes down to it, I guess I’d rather have what comes from the hand of God, whatever it is, than to walk away from him, empty-handed.

All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou mightiest seek it in My arms.
—The Hound of Heaven

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.