Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Living in the Land of Uz

"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."

So begins the famous Book of Job -- a story that, according to William Safire, "delights the irreverent, satisfies the blasphemous, and offers at least some comfort to the heretical."

Uz was far away -- east of Israel -- and Job lived long ago -- a contemporary of Abram as near as we can tell. The story might as well begin: "A long, long time ago in a land far, far away...."

I think it begins this way to keep the original readers from going to seek out Job or any of his descendants. That would miss the point entirely. The point is, Job's story is our story. The land of Uz is Job's land. It's our land. It's this land.

The story begins with life as we would expect it. A good man with a good life. The two go hand-in-hand, right? The goodness of a person's life is directly proportional to the goodness of their life. That's the way things ought to be, right?

But that's not how things are in the land of Uz. Uz is a place where very bad things happen -- even to very good people. In Uz, bad things sometimes come without warning and without explanation. Uz is often a place of confusion and despair.

Uz is where we live, and this is our story.