Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed; were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it? No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up. Who can stand before it? Who can confront it and be safe? —under the whole heaven, who? I will not keep silence concerning its limbs, or its mighty strength, or its splendid frame. Who can strip off its outer garment? Who can penetrate its double coat of mail? Who can open the doors of its face? There is terror all around its teeth… When it raises itself up the gods are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches it, it does not avail, nor does the spear, the dart, or the javelin. It counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood.
Since when was Holy Scripture a trailer for a horror movie? You think you know what you’re going to get when you sit down and crack open the well-worn family Bible, but sometimes the pages open to something like Job 41. The ode to the great Leviathan, in which the author of Job did their level best to describe the indescribable… the most terrible, terrifying, insurmountable being in all of God’s creation. Something so great and so horrifying that no mortal or immortal could possibly hope to even stand in the face of it—let alone overcome it—short of God.
What inspired this passage? Was it dinosaur fossils? Or a dark and stormy night’s encounter with an undiscovered beast from the depths of the sea? One that waits in the deep, to one day be awoken by a passing submarine’s sonar pings?
Or perhaps it was nothing more than a simple literary device. A way to grasp at the ancient human fear of the dark, the unknown, and the unplumbable depths of the reality beyond the light of our campfire. A way to place us in context with the indifferent chaos of an untamable world.
That’s what horror movies and all the great authors like Poe, Lovecraft, and King have been doing for so long. Allowing us to encounter that which cannot be understood and overcome… because there isso much about this world and about this life that cannotbe understood orovercome.
And in the face of that, it warmed my heart last night to be startled out of my work by the sounds of children and parents and public servants gathering in front of the church in costume to begin York’s Halloween festivities as the sun set. In the face of the darkness of lengthening nights, in the face of all the terrifying tales that make this season what it is, and in the face of all the horror that exists in this world and invades our television screens every time we turn on the news… children and families still choose to make the hide of Leviathan their own. To put on costumes, to fill bags with candy, and to make that which is chilling and unknowable instead a chance to build community and make a little chaos of their own. To build the campfire brighter and to laugh in the face of the beasts of the dark.
The throng of families that marched down York Street on Halloween night wasn’t afraid of anything. No uncaring world, no enemy power, no killer in a mask, and no tentacled dead god that slumbers in the deep was going to threaten them. We may not be able to catch Leviathan with a fishhook, as God reminded Job, but when we stand together, when we surround ourselves with love and laughter… Leviathan ain’t got nothin’ on us.
Exercise:Open Job 41 and try to sketch Leviathan based on what you read in the chapter. When we put our fears down in crayon and colored pencil, all of a sudden they aren’t so terrifying anymore.
Prayer:God of the known and unknown, may your Spirit bind us with our neighbors in love and courage, to face the beauties and the horrors of this your incredible Creation, together. Amen.
Song I’m listening to these days: “Carry On Wayward Son,” by Kansas.
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