Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Job 9) transports me inside a nuclear submarine, the Proteus, during the height of the Cold War in the mid 1960s. In something of a reversal of the Space Race, the US and Russia are racing here to see who can explore not the grand scale of the cosmic regions of outer space, but the microscopic scale of the interior regions of the human body. Fantastic Voyage became one of my favorite movies as a kid (and not just because it was one of Rachel Welch’s first movies); I also loved the animated series that followed it. The premise was simple: both governments are working on technology for shrinking things down to the subatomic level, so they can explore the cells of the human body as if they are exploring remote planets and galaxies. The Proteus is the first submarine to be shrunk. It was named for the Greek god Proteus, aka the Old Man of the Sea, who was a shape shifter. It’s where we get our English word, protean, meaning versatile, adaptable, flexible. This adaptable sub and its crew has a mission to go into the body of scientist Jan Benes, who has been the target of an assassination attempt. Their mission is to repair a blood clot that has formed in the doctor’s brain. We have to remember that this was high drama, as it came well before the comic versions of Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Innerspace. I remember being on pins and needles as the crew navigated their way through the blood stream, encountering all sorts of obstacles along the way (including a double agent saboteur on board), before they finally completed their mission and exited via a tear drop in Dr. Benes’ eye.
Job’s fantastic voyage is back on the cosmic, grand scale as he tries to describe what it is like encountering the God of the universe. This is a protean deity Job is dealing with, strolling across the waves as a sea God in one instance, donning the robes of a courtroom judge the next, turning the light of the sun off and on and positioning the constellations the next, wielding a storm as an instrument of punishment and slaying dragons the next, and putting on an invisibility cloak to move about unseen the next. The whole point of Job’s description is to convey the awe and humility of being a mere human over against the grandeur of such cosmic power. Were this a contest of strength or a battle of wits, we humans are no match. It is as if Job’s spirit has been put through Jan Benes’ shrinking machine; it is miniscule in comparison to the Spirit of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is. And yet, Job has the wherewithal to speak, to question, to ponder, as he stands there in his suffering, watching God trample the waves and tighten Orion’s belt. In his shrunken state, he is still part of this created universe; he is still in relationship with this all-powerful God of life. That connection, between the miniscule and the cosmic, is the miraculous mystery we continue to ponder to this day.
I wonder if this Job passage was at all in Jesus’ mind as he walked across the water toward the frightened and troubled disciples. Did he think about God treading the waves, strolling across the sea, in great grandeur? And did he think about the connections between this larger than life kind of display, and the shrunken spirits of his friends? In the world of quantum physics today, there is equal fascination between the exterior workings of the cosmos and the interior workings of the subatomic world. On a spiritual level, I think Jesus embodied the connections between these two worlds in a very protean way, stepping off the galactic stage of the heavens, shifting shapes as he entered into the hearts of his friends and followers. His spirit began swimming in their very bloodstreams, bringing them exactly what they needed at any given time – prophet, priest, king, lamb, bread, water, door. This is a continuing journey for Jesus, as He is equally at home orchestrating the movements of the Pleiades and Pisces as he is dealing with our pedestrian fears and failures. His is the ultimate fantastic voyage.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Google+, FB, Twitter, etc.