I can see it from where I sit as I stare at the blank, new pages of this Bible. It’s identical, down to the Moleskine-esque black cover and the inch and a half wide margins because I’m a habitual doodler, with zero impulse control. These pages are tear-stained, the full rainbow-inked margins, smeared, and scribbled. I can’t go near this book without that image overlaying in my mind. I’ve heard over and over again that you bring your presuppositions, and your associations with you every time you read this beautiful book. I didn’t realize all the associations Job had for me.
When I imagine that book, that bible sitting in my littlest brother’s closet as I type, I am forced to meet the eyes of someone far angrier. I meet her steely, tired eyes. She’s so, so tired. God doesn’t make any sense anymore, and God, people always made this unfurling rage, this gap-toothed foundation look a little more glamorous. I remember being so bitter at books that made sense of how little my own faith made any sense anymore, books that put my own visceral pain into clean, sexy, poetic verse. I’m not sure if you could see how angry I was then, but I remember anger feeling very physical to me, always pulsing directly under my skin. I could feel it as deeply with a scowl as I could with a smile. God, I just don’t know you anymore. Feeling the tension of every fact turning quickly to five hundred questions for whom it appeared as though the answer didn’t exist. The bright, sunshine-y, zealous faith of my childhood, had nothing for my depressed, fearful, disillusioned adulthood.
When we read the book of Job, I didn’t want to leave anymore. Not church, anyways. Still hated most of the rest of my life, but now it was as though someone had breathed life into it again. It contrasted painfully with my own willful apathy towards not just church, but a bible that gave me more questions than it ever did answers. The pages of my bible filled with notes, vibrant coloring and lines connecting my thoughts. I couldn’t feel all those passages that told me to take joy, and every time I did, it just increased the deficit of the person I was, to the person I believed God wanted me to be.
Someone in this book speaks my language.
Job was the first time I looked at the Bible and saw my own grittiness shining, mirror-like, back at me. He was angry, and confused, and couldn’t give up on this God of his any more than I could, against what felt on the brink of irrationality. Job had friends who had answers, but none of them felt sufficient, none of them gave him an explanation that he could hold onto. I’m not comparing my own dumb mistakes to losing everything, but I came out of that season of mistake, with an identity I no longer recognized. Everything I had identified myself with- church, good grades, good behavior, high hopes, had shifted, had obliterated. I had a testimony that I had created myself, and now no longer wanted.
I wanted to believe God still wanted me, more than I wanted me. I wanted to believe staying, and sobriety, and loving through the pain, and working a job I hated, and feeling all this aimlessness was worth something. That it had a purpose. That God could make something out of me still. That’s all we ever want to believe when we fail. That it’s okay, we still matter. Job saved me, because Job mattered to God, even in his rage and pride and pain. I wasn’t beyond saving.
Fast forward a year and half, and I sit here skimming the first chapter, margins now blank in this new bible of mine. The other one was beloved, so much so that the cover fell off. The margins are empty of my pain, emptied of my arguments, my observations, and I am emptying my hands.
This confession is me emptying my hands.
All of the ideas I had, sure. But mostly of the way I held this book so close like it somehow gave me not just permission to feel my pain, but to not heal. Some days I wake up and I still feel like that angry, tired girl. And then I pray, and I tell God where my soul is at. And I’m allowed to be angry, but God postures himself perpetually in such a way that offers healing. He has never once denied me my pain, but he is constantly inviting me towards healing, towards moving one step closer to leaving that angry girl to rest in peace in the pages of my old bible. Sure, Job gave me permission to feel. But God himself gives me permission to heal.
So I’m reading this book over again, with new eyes, seeing if I can’t find some resolution here. I am fighting to see clearly, like the healed, new, alive, loved person I am. So I open my fresh, clean ivory bible pages, and ask God to teach me to read with new eyes and open hands.