In Sunday School last week we had the lesson on Job. Normally I tune this story out because it's kind of depressing and gross (boils - eww). This time 'round, I heard the story in a new way.
Here's the story in a nutshell: Job is a perfect and upright man who worships God unfailingly. Satan challenges God that Job only loves Him because He has given him everything (wealth) and protects him from bad things. God tells Satan to go ahead and strip Job of his wealth and see what happens.
On earth, servants appear to Job, one by one, to inform him that his oxen, his sheep, and, finally, his camels have all been raided by enemies and stolen away. A fourth servant then appears to tell Job his children have all been killed in a windstorm. Job sorrows and worships God.
Satan next gets permission from God to try Job physically - eew, boils and rotten breath! It's so bad he lives out in the ashes (which I think is the burned garbage heaps). His wife urges him to curse God and die. He doesn't. His three friends then appear to "comfort" him by taking turns telling Job that he is wicked and that is why God is punishing him. What follows for several chapters are the back and forth comments and rebuttals between Job and his friends. Job insists that he has not sinned and his friends cite his trials as proof of wickedness. But Job never backs down. He knows he is good.
In the end, Job is validated by the Lord for his righteousness and his friends are chastised. Job is rewarded over and above what he lost and lives a long and happy life.
While the story was not new to me, an aspect I never considered was new: Job's relationship with his friends.
I had great friends growing up. The kind of girls I gravitated toward were really of high caliber - I wanted to be like them. They were smart, talented, funny, creative, and I was a better person for being around them. I'm not sure at what point I subsumed my own opinions in favor of theirs, but over the years, I found that I relied less and less on that little voice inside me and more and more on what my friends thought or felt.
I was in my late twenties when a good friend of mine asked if she could set me up with a man she knew. I agreed to meet him and spent an enjoyable evening with her, her husband and M. M was NOT someone I ever would have looked at twice, he being much older than I (10 years), a recent convert to the church (and therefore not temple ready), angrily divorced (yay for drama), and underemployed. He was nothing like my friends' husbands who were all much cooler. I was a little bummed that she thought he was a good match, but I ignored those feelings because of my friend's recommendation. I trusted in her more than myself.
What ensued was five emotionally tumultuous months of dating a man to whom I became more and more attached, all while finding out he wanted fewer and fewer of the things that I found important. At the end of the five months I was a wreck, having made more compromises than I dreamed possible in the hopes that we could work it out. Then he dumped me while we were on a road trip in my car. I had to drive him home afterwards while he waxed joyfully about how much better he felt. I pretended I was okay.
To say I was heartbroken was the understatement of the age. In truth, he merely used me emotionally and financially and was closer to me physically than I'd ever let a man be. I felt used and discarded, but no permanent damage was done. The worst thing was that I realized I needed to learn to trust the voice within me.
Job was in terrible torment. He had friends who opined about his predicament. In trials, it's so hard to think clearly - I would have sought solace by trying anything and everything. If my friends had told me I was sinning, I would have believed them! I would have been the sucky friend who agreed with everyone! Not Job. He stuck to his guns because he knew he was right.
I had one more trial run with a serious relationship before I met Brian. In that relationship, I also made mistakes listening to the Still, Small Voice inside me. But I was getting better. At least this time I was asking questions of God instead of relying on other people to tell me what I should feel. I was not perfect by any means - after all, that guy dumped me, too!
When Brian finally came along, I'd had enough practice being alone with my thoughts that I had the smallest inkling of how to listen to the voice within me. I find it interesting that God took that teeny tiny bit of faith and helped me make the biggest decision of my life - one that I heretofore had made badly more than once! - and make that decision well. The only person I asked advice of was my Dad - and I'd never asked him before. Earthly father and Heavenly Father. An interesting parallel.
A few months after I married Brian, I got an envelope in the mail from M. Within it was a check for the money he'd borrowed from me when we'd dated five years before. It paid for Brian's and my honeymoon to Disneyland. And that honeymoon gave us this:
My ability to listen to my inner compass waxes and wanes all the time. The important thing is to keep on trying and to be strong when I know something is true. Just like Job and not like his sucky friends.