Posted by: smstrouse | September 7, 2013

Just Call Me Pastor Job

I was going to write this week’s blog on a completely different topic. But then ‘stuff’ happened. And so I’m wondering: what do you do when bad things happen to you?


This isn’t an academic question. I’ve been having a run of bad luck lately. It started with a simple suggestion from my dentist to have an old crown replaced before it gave me trouble. OK, scheduled the appointment; everything went fine. But that night, after I’d carefully flossed around the temporary crown, another crown in a different part of my mouth popped out.

I felt like the guy in the movie “The Fly” when all his teeth start falling out. But at least it didn’t hurt, and the next day the dentist glued it back in and I made an appointment to replace the second crown. I was feeling pretty down about this, mostly because crowns are expensive, even with dental insurance.
I tried to make light of it.

1098475_619332504754311_2092757650_nI decided that the Hymn of the Day that week would be “Crown Her with Many Crowns.”

But then it got worse.

On the weekend before my appointment (of course, dental emergencies always happen on weekends), I got the mother of all toothaches. Pain relievers couldn’t touch it; heat didn’t help either. I was up all Sunday night. Finally the dentist’s office opened, gave me a prescription for the good pain killers and sent me off to an endodontist for a consultation. Diagnosis: infection. Treatment plan: 3 root canals within one week.  And then: 3 more crowns ASAP.

Then it got really ridiculous. Driving into San Francisco on the opening day of the brand-spankin’ new Bay Bridge, I was rear-ended and pushed into the car in front of me. My car: totaled. I got a rental car the next day, just in time to get to my 3 & 1/2  hour dentist appointment to start working on the 3 crowns.

I will admit to some feelings of dejection and crankiness. And then guilt, because after all there are a lot of people worse off than me. But after two nights of revelatory dreams, I realized that I needed to honor my pain, grief, anger, and all the other assorted emotions that arise when bad things happen.  I can’t just pick myself up and get over it.

I also needed to acknowledge the healing presence of those who’ve responded by phone, email and Facebook with concern and love and with great advice about taking care of myself. And those who’ve been there for me in person: my colleague who helped clean out my car before it was towed away, my fabulous chiropractor, my SO (significant other) who fed me soup, and everyone who offered much-appreciated “poor baby” hugs.

I’m thankful that I don’t have any friends like Job’s who were convinced that he’d done something to deserve all his bad stuff. Nobody blamed God; nobody blamed me. Which is good; I’m in no mood to counter bad theology.

But I still wonder what others do when bad stuff happens.  Do you take the time to honor the emotions that surface? Do you acknowledge the gifts of healing thoughts and prayers and offers of help?  I’m finding the whole process to be a spiritual excercize in vulnerability, humility and gratitude.

I’m still a little cranky. Car shopping, replacing my cell phone, dealing with insurance companies don’t appeal to me. But the despair has lifted. Mostly, I think, because I realized that it was normal.

So call me Pastor Job. Maybe, like him, I’ll get back twice as much as I had before. I just hope God remembers that I don’t need the 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 oxen and 1,000 donkeys.

A new CR-Z and an iPhone will do just fine.

Job in Despair
Marc Chagall, 1960
Galerie Art Cherubim



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