I’d thought this post was going to unfold very differently, that I’d be talking about my path toward wholeness. But that feels inappropriate now that I’ve sat down to type. No, that’s not the story I have to tell this evening. Instead, let’s talk about chaos and uncertainty.
As is common for people undergoing the upheaval of life, the story of Job has been rather poignant for me recently. Even months after the last time I read the story, I’m still churning on parts of it, chewing bits of it still rattling around my mind. Ignoring some rather key facts about the story, I am still struck by the number of appearances of Leviathan in this story that seemingly has nothing to do with the sea. Or does it?
Let those curse it who curse the day,
who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.
— Job 3:8
That’s Job cursing the day he was born. However, what is Leviathan doing here? Honestly, I have no clue. I do have an idea, however. But first, perhaps check out God’s monologue about this sea-dwelling monster in chapter forty-one.
It’s probably important to note that Job isn’t a Jewish story—he’s a pretty regular wealthy Mesopotamian character. Similarly, Leviathan is also a Mesopotamian—among other cultures around the world—myth. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Leviathan in Mesopotamia was a sea serpent representing—as did any sea monster worth their salt—chaos or the unknown. Honestly, what is more chaotic or unknown to you than the depths of the sea? Yes, that’s meant to be a rhetorical question, thank you. And so, Leviathan was the embodiment of chaos itself. Pretty strong language then in Job three if Job is inviting those who curse the day and night he was born to wake up chaos in its purest form. So much for Job not being melodramatic, but I digress.
Why in the hell is Job going straight for Leviathan when that seems to have nothing to do with literally anything preceding it? Once again, I couldn’t tell you. Look, friend, I didn’t claim that I had answers.
More important, however, is God’s response in chapter forty-one that I linked earlier in the post. First of all, what in the literal fuck? This—a half of a verse shoutout almost forty chapters prior!—is what God chooses to respond to? Honestly, who is this god? Like, have you even been paying attention to the last forty chapters?
“…as it often is with us—God is having an entirely different conversation than the one we are having.”
— Jonathan Martin
The book of Job up to this point—chapter forty-one—spends an entire thirty-seven chapters focusing on the complaints of Job and the back and forth between the man and his accusatory but wise friends. God finally shows up in chapter thirty-eight and Leviathan all God talks about in chapter forty-one. Leviathan literally gets an entire chapter of the story!
What’s interesting here isn’t the length at which God talks about the creature, but rather the manner. “Will he speak to you soft words?” (Job 41:3b). And then we get these words from verse five of the chapter, “Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls?” While Psalm 74:14 speaks of killing the creature, this passage tells a very different story. God is gentle with Leviathan. God does not vanquish chaos, but rather keeps it as a pet; notice, God doesn’t domesticate or tame chaos.
Those last words haunt me. Who the hell is this God? At last, in only these past few months have I begun to understand who this monster of a God might be. Because it’s only in the last few months, have I been able to comprehend this God who must contend with chaos and only after exerting effort keeps Leviathan as a pet.
Who is this fucking God?
I still can’t say; I haven’t understood for months. And I think I’m finally closer to truly comprehending this God. Truthfully, as the authors of Job did, I too wrestle with the question of whether God is good or omnipotent—God cannot be both given the story, as well as my own somedays. I find something comforting in the not knowing, not needing to know—the burden of certainty.
Maybe the point of God’s monologue in the story is to point out that God is in control of all this chaos. Maybe. I reserve the right to question goodness if that’s indeed true. Those questions, dear friends, and doubts are not chaos themselves but rather guides leading me gently into a faith both less concrete and more solid.
I’m not there yet. In one way, I hope I never again have the arrogance to claim any sense of certainty about God. I think that relegates the belief to one in god. Rather, I hope to continue to wrestle with the gift of uncertainty and the wide open spaces that creates for doubt, diversity, and growth. I hope to see you there in those breathtakingly beautiful places.