Based on Job 23:10 “When God hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”
Here is what I know: I am sixty-two-years old. I’ve lost my grandparents, my father, my husband. I’ve lost friends. I’ve buried – that is, officiated – at more funerals than I can count, including funerals of those who were impossibly young. Here is what I know: this life – it can be achingly lovely, and it can be wracked with unbearable pain. I know that bad things, awful things can and do happen to good people.
That is the burden of the Book of Job. Job was a good man, a righteous man, to whom bad things, terrible things, unbearable things happened. All the while Job is asking: Why? Why me? To what end is this suffering? What did I do to deserve this? Job is searching for that which eludes him: for rhyme or reason, for purpose or meaning in his suffering. The truth is, Job didn’t do anything to deserve it. Bad things do happen to good people.
As much as we ache for a balancing scale that would afford to good people only good things and to bad people only bad things, life isn’t fair in that sort of way. It just isn’t. Sometimes, terrible things, unbearable things, just happen.
Eventually, Job shifts course. Instead of shaking his fist at heaven and asking Why? Instead of asking unanswerable questions, Job arrives at a kind of resolve, a grit-your-teeth doggedness by which he determines this: he will, henceforth, see his life, his faith as undergoing a test, a trial.
And as gold, tried in a furnace emerges purer than it entered; as the heat and the trial of the furnace consume every impurity, so will it be for him. He determines that every trial, every fiery crucible, every tribulation and ordeal will prove him better, purer, finer, stronger. “When God hath tried me,” he shouts, “I shall come forth as gold!”
Five years ago, Monday, April 15, 2013 terrible things, unbearable things happened to good and innocent people. On a day washed in sunshine and warmth, in the midst of cheers and triumph, evil erupted on Boylston Street. The Boston Marathon – this world’s oldest, peaceful international competition – was visited with violence, was violated, was twisted into a scene of horror. Lives were taken. Families devastated. Limbs lost. Some lost hearing; others still suffer from PTSD. Bad things happened that day to good and innocent people.
Sometimes you… sometimes someone you love… sometimes good and innocent people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. From there, all we can do – all any of us can do –is the best we can do.
All we can do is grit our teeth, endure surgeries, go to therapy, learn coping mechanisms, hug comfort dogs, light candles, say prayers, remember the dead, toll bells, lay wreathes, grieve deeply, design memorials, give money, knit scarves, learn to walk again, learn to run. We can hold on to each other, cheer each other on. We can thank God for first responders, for docs and nurses, for law enforcement and for our heroes. We can refuse to meet violence with violence and hatred with hatred. And we can do this, we must do this, at least tomorrow, at least on Patriots Day, on Marathon Monday: we can cheer the Red Sox! And this: we can determine with stubborn doggedness that evil, and pain, and heartache will not take us down, will not defeat or distort us …that, “when we are tried, we shall come forth as gold”
It is my contention, my observation, my conviction that Boston, and the Boston Marathon, the runners, the spectators, the organizers, the families, the survivors, the first responders, and the second and third and fourth responders suffered in the crucible, suffered an ordeal … and, so far as humanly possible, with outsized portions of grit and grace, you have emerged stronger, better, finer. What I see today – in Boston, here in this sanctuary, and out there on the streets …what I see on this 5th Anniversary Year … what I see everywhere I look: gold. I see shining, shimmering, brilliant, dazzling, beautiful, gleaming, been-through-the-crucible gold. When I look at you… that’s what I see. It is. It surely is. I see gold.