Sunday, May 11, 2008

Marco Polo

”Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” ~Psalm 37:7

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” ~Psalm 40:1

Swimming and being with friends are two of our kids’ favorite things. Friday they got to combine them in a jubilant and high-energy two and one-half hours. I watched them splash and swim with some divided interest, but one 20 minute period in particular captured my full attention.

The boys invited the girls to play Marco Polo with them. The girls enthusiastically accepted their invitation, and soon shouts of “MARCO!” and (if delivered a bit more feebly) “POLO!” filled the room. Everyone played fairly (well, mostly) except my son. He understands the rules, but he is the youngest of the four by eight months and hasn’t yet decided that all the rules of such games apply to him. That, or he doesn’t like being alone behind closed eyelids.

Finally the other kids banished him from being “IT” and the game went on. He has it good, I thought. Even if he gets tagged, he doesn’t have to play the Marco part anymore! He doesn’t have to ever wonder where the other kids are! He continued to play the game, though, laughing and squealing with the others if IT got too close.

Occasionally IT would scream “MARCO” and only one or two of the three would answer with “POLO.” (Hey! You can’t swim! You have to be able to hear the person who is it!). I could tell this disturbed IT a little bit, but as long as the others answered within a few more MARCOs, then all was well. Sometimes, though, no one would answer. IT would try once, maybe twice, more before opening his or her eyes to see what was going on and where everyone was. Even the players who had not been banished from being IT would eventually give in. The darkness, coupled with silence, was just too much.

I happen to be reading the book of Job right now, and I wonder now if he didn’t play a little game of Marco Polo with God some four millennia ago. Of course, it wouldn’t have been “Marco Polo,” as it would be another 3,200 years before he would be born. But, whatever they called it, it must have felt similar to Job as did those moments Friday to IT when no one answered.

Job had been through the ringer. And then some. God had allowed Satan to tear Job’s life apart … and for what? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. Back to Marco Polo. In between listening to his so-called “friends” (including his wife) give him the what-for (“Oooh! You must have sinned good, loser!” “Oh, just curse God and die!”), Job cries out for justice, mercy, even a glimmer of hope in a very unjust and hopeless situation.

And what does God do? Nothing. He’s silent. Oh, he’s listening, alright. I know because he responds … eventually. But in that moment, as Job is calling out, “MARCO …… MARCO ……. MARCO …….” and not getting any response, he tries desperately to open his eyes, but no matter what he does, the darkness looms; the oppressive night of his circumstance never breaks.

“Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged,’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. … He has shrouded my paths in darkness.” ~Job 19:7-8

“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.” ~30:20

“If only I knew where to find Him …” ~23:3a

It is obvious by Job’s discourses that he truly felt abandoned by God. Yet, in all of the misery and loneliness of his injustice, Job maintains his innocence and refuses to give in to the advice he’s receiving, refuses to curse God. Instead, he repeatedly honors God as He deserves … all the while laying his struggles, fears, anger, and sadness boldly at His feet.

You have to have read chapter one to know that this was the whole purpose of this situation anyway. Satan has been roaming about, seeking whom he may devour, and wanders into heaven, probably just to give God a hard time. Instead, God brings Job to Satan’s attention, saying, “There is no one on earth like [my servant, Job]; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (1:8)

Satan replies, “Oh yeah? Well it’s only because he never has to struggle with anything! He has everything he wants! He has no problems! You’ve sheltered him! I bet if you torment him and take away everything he has he’ll curse you … to your face! So there!” (my paraphrase.)

God, knowing Job’s heart and fully trusting in his faith and passion for Himself, allows Satan to torment him … and why? Simply to bring glory to Himself.

And one little side note? God did not ban Job from the game for trying to peek when he cried out “MARCO!” and received no response. He allowed Job to search wildly for him … to fuss, to cry, to complain, to hurt, to struggle, to ask “why me?” And God was not bothered by these questions. Instead he honored Job for speaking truth about Him. And he restored Job’s livelihood and family, even greater than before.

Thank you, God, for being bigger than my problems, and even able to handle my complaints, fears, struggles, and questions. Some think that you despise these things, but I am convinced that you appreciate the honesty and transparency of your children, and that these things bring us closer to you – they forge relationship simply by virtue of the fact that in the darkest night of our circumstances we find ourselves in a state of dependence on you and desperation for you; we are forced to walk by faith.

OK, God. You ready? I’m closing my eyes …

MARCO! ………


  1. Walking in the dark is hard and can be painful, but we learn so much when we are dependant on Him and not ourselves. Yes, walking by faith can be scary but oh what an amazing adventure when we trust!

  2. Don't be too hard on Job's wife. Like most of us, she stumbled in a moment of weakness. But when Job calls her on it and tells her "You're speaking like one of the foolish women. This isn't like you! Snap out of it!" She comes around and we don't hear another peep out of her. I'd like to think it's because she is once again behind her husband in prayer. At the end of the book, the children that God rewards Job with had to come through her and to her as well.
    Thanks for the reminder! I'm going to need it this week!


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