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Posts Tagged ‘#jobonthedungheap’

I love mysteries. British crime dramas are my favorite shows to watch, for I love to see how the brief references to people, items or activities at the beginning give hints to where the mystery will travel.

When I read the Bible, I do so with a similar mystery-hunter mindset. I am constantly trying to pay attention to the broad strokes as well as the tiniest of details … for, I believe, if it is important to God that it be included in the narrative, then it must have significance to me today.

This summer I have been considering the trials of the Prophet Job, but I have been obsessed with his dung heap.

There he is, just outside the village gates (presumably down wind), sitting on a pile of … crap, scraping the crusts off the painful sores that cover his body. It is not just his body that aches, for he has lost his livestock, his servants and all of his children … the heap of dung is a representation of his life in this part of his story.

So … why was it so important that we know that Job is sitting on a dung heap?

I think part of it is time and setting. This dung heap would be like the village dump for … feces. It would be brought just outside the town and burned, providing a way to eliminate smell and bacteria from the living areas of the community.

but, I think there might be another reason why it was mentioned … and this might be where there is application for us today.

It is here, on the dung heap, that Job mourns his losses, where he scraped his sores with pottery, where he received three friends, where he replied to his wife’s encouragement to “curse God and die” with, “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

I find it interesting that Job, a wise man, a Prophet, a righteous man, is sitting on a dung heap … in emotional and physical pain, front and center for all to see his response to pain.

So, what does this communicate to us, today?

I think that there is something important that we can learn from Job on his dung heap:

it is okay
to sit on a dung heap

In Job’s story, he literally sat on a dung heap, where he mourned, wept … where he wallowed in his sorrows for a time. It is one of the most real, authentic examples in the Bible of acknowledging how one feels when in the depths of despair. In this Job shows us that even a godly and righteous man can have time wallowing in self-pity.

In our society and maybe especially in our Christian circles, we do not look at a metaphorical sitting on a dung heap as an example of how a person should live. We encourage moving on, taking the high road, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps. In other words, we emphasize outward recovery, before allowing the bleeding to stop first.

Yet, there is a purpose in tears, in mourning and even in self pity.

Did you know that when humans cry for emotional reasons our tears are not just composed of water and salt, but also hormones and toxins that have accumulated due to emotional stress. When we cry, we are ridding our bodies of these, while at the same time the process of crying stimulates our bodies to produce endorphins … the Dr. Feel Good of hormones.

 After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins that accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.” Interestingly, humans are the only creatures known to shed emotional tears, though it’s possible that elephants and gorillas do, too. Other mammals and also salt-water crocodiles produce reflex tears that are protective and lubricating.

Grieving is the process towards acceptance of broken attachments. We must go through the grief (not around it) to reach that acceptance and then to learn how to live without those we had attachments with.

Self pity can be a most beneficial act of self care. It can also be the most authentic way to healing. It is healthier to move through emotions than to jump over the less appealing ones. The pain is there, whether you ignore it or walk through it, but if you ignore it, it will remain … unnamed, unhealed, like a full suitcase that has never been unpacked. Name the authentic emotion you are feeling and feel it fully.

Job felt his pain. He wallowed in it, agonized over it.

And, once through it, God reminded him who Job was, who God is … It was then that Job was ready to move off the dung pile.

So, if you are sad, have lost something or someone near to you, if life has not turned out as you hoped … sit awhile on the dung heap. Shed the tears you’ve been bottling up. Weep for yourself awhile.

Then, turn your face to God and have him remind you who you are, in him.

Just … don’t rush.

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“Job” (the first Job painting)
by William Orpen

… the patience of Job

an idiom birthed in the strength of an Old Testament prophet who refused to curse God and die.

I have been pondering Job over the past few months … pondering his time of sitting on the dung heap.

The image (above) of Job on his dung heap, naked and (with the image of a man walking away) alone spoke loudest to me of all the paintings of him by all the greatest painters. Painted by Irish painter William Orpen before or around 1900. Later he was dispatched as an artist to the Western Front in WW1. His paintings (and poem) inspired from his visit to the site of the Battle of Somme resonated with me as I looked a this image of the prophet Job, alone after the ravages of the war he was forced to fight.

Why was Job sitting on a dung heap?

Actually, some versions say he was sitting on ashes, not a dung heap. From my research it was both. The solid waste of animals would be taken to a select spot just outside the village, where it would … bake in the sun and eventually would be burnt (no doubt to eliminate smell as well as bacteria). It is there, on this ashy dung heap, where those who were undesirable outcasts (economically, socially or physical conditions) would sit and beg.

It would seem that Job had lost just about everything in his life … his livestock, servants, children and his health. His body was covered with sores. His only relief was scraping his sores (releasing the painful pressure, perhaps) with a broken piece of clay. His wife had told him to curse God and die. His friends inquired of what sin he had committed.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of the children’s story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of some of the seasons in the lives of us all.

More on what the dung heap teaches us next time.

In the meantime, click here and read Job 1-3 … it’ll just take a few minutes (and that’s coming from one who reads so slowly). This will help to prepare us for the dung heap.

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