"So here is the story from my youth illustrating my stubbornness, Job. I am not particularly proud of it; it just "is." When I was a little tyke, about 4 or 5 years old, I liked to hang out in the kitchen of our home in CT. I always seemed to be hungry, and I loved to open the refrigerator door and stare for minutes at the contents of the refrigerator. My mother didn't like me doing that, for obvious reasons, and so she would tell me to "shut the refrigerator door." I did, until she went out of the room, and then I opened it again, and continued staring.
One day my father decided he would break me of this habit. So, when I was minding my own business checking out the hot dogs, Velveeta cheese or left-over baked beans, he came in and said, rather sternly, "Close the refrigerator door, Billy." They used to call me Billy, and I think that calling me that gave the name Billy a sort of bad connotation. I remember that when I saw Kramer v. Kramer in the late 1970s that the boy who got into all the trouble was a boy named "Billy," and I secretly wondered if I had not been the model for that character.
So, my dad told me to close the refrigerator door. I complied. But, just to be sort of a pain-in-the-ass, a trait that I believe was given me by nature and not nurture, I kept my hand on the refrigerator door handle. Trying to exercise patience, my dad slowly removed my hand from the handle and placed it down by my side. As quick as lightning, I put my hand back on the door handle. Repeat. Again, my hand shot back to the handle, as if there was an invisible magnet drawing me there. He then began to slap my hand, gently at first. I stood unmoved. Harder. Still unmoved. My hand began to grow red, and I recall feeling a stinging pain in it as he hit it again and again. Finally, he hit it very hard, but something must have gone awry, because he ended up hurting his hand. With an undeleted expletive he left the room while I was still clinging to the life raft of the handle.
Isn't that you, too, Job? Everyone is telling you to "let go" of the handle, so to speak, but you refuse to do so. You will complain, attack God and the friends, develop a refined vocabulary of assault, but you won't let go, will you? You know that you are right, and there is no one who will tell you differently. I think it is this point that separates people as they look at your story, Job. There are the "go with the flow" type of people in this world, and I bet they will not find themselves drawn to you very much, Job. They will feel toward you like a lot of feminists feel toward the Apostle Paul--that underneath all the language about justification by faith and life in Christ he was a raging sexist. Therefore they don't memorize II Corinthians anymore, if they ever did. They don't read Paul. So, people who "go with the flow" in life don't tend to read you, Job. And the reason is that you don't go with the flow. You fight it. I bet you cried every day before your nap as a child, not wanting to fall asleep. Am I right, Job?
But then there are people who are like you and me, Job. We are just plain stubborn. We think we see the world correctly, and we will not deny our experience. Yet, we are also intensely loyal people, too, loyal to the God who has seemingly equipped us with so many good things. And we live with the tension that those two realities give us. The tension arises because of pain, and we neither will let go of God or our pain. But, you know what I discovered, Job? Eventually, you have to let go of something. Otherwise you split in the middle. If you did not let go of something, it would be like Robert Frost writing that two roads diverged in a wood and I took BOTH of them. You can't do that.
But now that returns me full circle to the question that is on my mind, Job. Isn't it true for both you and me that if push comes to shove and you have to deny either God or your pain, that it has to be God whom you throw overboard? God (or maybe is it just our conception of God?) just has to go. But maybe you never really got to that point, Job, where the two roads diverged in the wood, or, using a slightly different analogy, maybe you were on parallel paths that were only three feet apart and you could keep one foot each in the world of God and the world of pain without splitting down the middle. Is that how I should understand ch.42, as happening just at the crux time when you had to make a decision between God and your pain? Well, that puts a new spin on ch.42 because it isn't immediately clear to me which one you opted for--God or pain. Or, even scarier, did you even have a "choice" of which one you eventually "chose?"
But now I feel that I have fully returned from Phoenix, Job, and am ready to move along with you. Thanks for listening to my rough, guttural utterances as I work myself back into shape with you.