By Rachel Douglas Swanson
Lectionary reading for 3/9/2022: Psalm 17; Job 1:1-22; Luke 21:34-22:6
Selected passage for reflection: Job 1:1-22
Job 1:13-21 NIV
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.[c] The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
I remember when my friend got the phone call telling him that his brother had been killed in an accident, while his friends gathered around him, he began to sing. “Great is thy faithfulness oh God my father. There is no shadow of turning with thee…”
I think about that moment with some frequency. I think about the utter despair that fills those moments after “the call”. That feeling of losing your balance, the buzzing in your ears. The future, opening like a bottomless pit.
The last few years have been a long dance with fear and loss. We have lost our jobs; we have lost our way of life. We have lost our sense of community. We have lost people that we cannot live without.
There have been many days when my voice isn’t strong enough to sing, let alone to sing the words, “Great is thy faithfulness.” There have been many days when getting out of bed in the morning is the bravest thing I can do.
Last fall, during a walk with my friend in the freezing rain, I looked up at one of the trees. It was positively radiant. The colors were fire in the sky, crackling with beauty. My friend turned to me and said, “Did you know that the color that leaves change in the fall is their true color? When all the chlorophyll is gone, the leaf is the color that is left behind.”
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return.”
When the phone rings, when the world is brought to its knees, what is left?
When everything is stripped away, what is my true color?
Because the last few years have also been an invitation to surrender. To let go. Seeing plans so carefully made change in an instant. Releasing my death grip on control, because I have so very little control over so many things.
The last few years have been an invitation to hold on to what crackles with beauty when everything else is stripped away.
The pockets of kindness. The presence of friends who will not be pushed away. The joy that leaks out between the tears. The hope that stands at the door, knocking to be let in.
The faithfulness. Whether our voice can sing the words or not.
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
What are the things that you want to hold onto even when everything else is stripped away? What pockets of crackling beauty stubbornly peek through?
May the God who gives and takes away shelter you in their wings. May your days be filled with trees crackling with beauty. May you be reminded again and again of the faithfulness of the one who created you. May all love surround you, in grief and in joy.
About the Author
Rachel has over 16 years of experience in education and works as a Creativity Coach, bringing creative, equitable learning opportunities to schools around the country, and providing one on one coaching to people in transition periods of their lives. Rachel has written for And Sons Magazine, The Huffington Post, and multiple online blogs. Rachel has a master’s degree in education and is a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow, a Gate's Foundation Redesign Challenge Innovator, and a Google for Education Educator, Innovator, Trainer, and Coach. She is the co-creator of the Create Brave card deck. In her free time Rachel spends as much time as possible with her partner and two sons.