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Westgate Centre: The New Old Face of Affliction

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Jihad, Jabs, Jobs and Job


Affliction is the bad stuff that happens. Today affliction looks like Westgate centre in Nairobi. It also looks like colleagues laid off after five, ten, 35 years of high-performance work for a company. Affliction can look like old age, like a shoulder with a pinched nerve, like legs becoming less-than-steady. Affliction looks like a chronic condition (heart, pain, fatigue). All the stuff that showers down on individuals and groups. All the bad and regrettable stuff, minor and major. All the stuff we would never choose (in a million years).

My new favorite old guy is Job. I’ve been dwelling with the story of his life and times and find his persistence, presence and engagement remarkable. One of Job’s friends, in a fit of knowing what to say (which passed for all the players in this drama) said this about Job’s affliction:

[God] delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness.

Elihu, the young buck who waited for all the old guys to finally shut up, also didn’t get it right. His words did not adequately describe the complex of Job’s predicament. Still his words (quoted above) contain wisdom: looking for deliverance in the middle of the affliction. In the end, his words proved true: Job sat at that table. And Job was thoroughly changed when he did so.

Is there deliverance in the horribleness at Westgate centre? I’m praying so. Is there deliverance after a loyal career? Yes, though the former careerist will be changed in the process. Is there deliverance from pinched nerves, unsteady legs, chronic conditions? Is there deliverance from old age? No. And Yes. And ultimately…yes.

And justice? That’s the very large conversation Job insisted on having—right up to where he fell silent. But affliction: is it somehow a way forward?


Image credit: Philipp Igumnov via MPD

Written by kirkistan

September 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

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