The Old Testament: The Book of Habakkuk – Pay Attention to Injustice, See How Law Is Paralyzed

I was accident-prone as a kid. While touring the water around Balboa Island, I had my thumb shattered in the boat’s bathroom door (long story).  Anyway, once the boat’s captain was convinced to turn the boat around, my parents got me to the emergency room.  There, a specialist—apparently wounded thumbs are a big deal—went to work on injury. With my dad beside me, this doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to watch him while he worked the needle in and out of the three places on my thumb that required attention.  I don’t know exactly what had to be done but I know I required a lot of stitches.

When prodded to pay attention to the procedure…Um, no thanks.

I’m squeamish on my best days.  I hate the sight of blood in general and the sight of my own blood even more.  Furthermore, I don’t like to see the person causing my body pain (even well-intentioned doctors) smiling and reassuring me. Wanting it to be over as fast as possible, I would even prefer to be unconscious while the doctor works.

For whatever reasons, I did look.  Watching this guy work made the pain tolerable.  In seeing what he was doing where, I understood—through a four-year-old’s capability—the sensations better.  This dulled the pain (and fear) I experienced.

Sometimes it’s best to look into, not away from the problem you’re having, for this is how you can understand something in order to deal with it best.

This same concept is probably what God had in mind when, in the Book of Habakkuk, he wants everyone to see the injustice all around them. If you see, you recognize, and then are able to do something about it.

But why this happens is a mystery to some. Addressing God directly, Habakkuk wants to know why he (and perhaps others) is made to look at injustice.  In addition, he isn’t sure if God can see how the law is paralyzed to anything about this situation (1:3-4).

Habakkuk’s point may not be why does he have to see—his issue may be why is it there in the first place?  However, the way his complaints are phrased, it’s hard to miss what might be the reason Habakkuk overlooks: You need to be able to recognize a problem in order to handle it.

God says to be patient, he’s getting to it. So of course things will get fixed. But there is a lesson to be learned in the meantime, right?

If you’ve ever had stitches or some uncomfortable procedure for which you have the misfortune of being conscious, you know that time seems to crawl.  You might think the doctor is close to being done but in reality has only finished the first stitch.

But if you close your eyes or look away, you’re in the dark, and your mind has to fill in what’s happening. If you can stomach paying attention, you’ll know what’s going on, and this might not make you feel good but at least you’ll have some understanding. Perhaps the issue with Habakkuk is that he should have turned his attention to his community and got them to pay attention, to stop looking away, and then maybe things would have changed.

The one benefit of the time it takes to get stitches done right is that you tend to remember the procedure well. Or at least well enough to think before you’re in position where you might need them again. But of course, if you’ve never been hurt, you don’t know this lesson.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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