Joe Blow

The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel. (Joel 1:1)

It’s hard being just one of the other guys. I mean, you’ve been drafted by the same will-shriveling deity as the Fantastic Four. You’ve got the same basic mandates, the same occupational hazards, the same radioactive Ghost all over you, the same soul-devouring WORD eating your guts. You’re supposed to be on the same team, for God’s sake! Here you are, hauling around the same back-busting burden as the rest of them, taking the same scorn, the same rejection, the same hostility—heck, maybe more. You’ve been loyally executing the playbook just as it’s been handed to you, no questions asked, and taking your hits as hard as any of them.

But all the showy moves belong to the Fab Four. Theirs are the mega books, theirs the big-ticket visions, theirs the scrollodex of quotable quotes. And when the Carpenter shows up, whom does he favor with citation after citation? Not you, buddy boy. Even the NT boys, with a rare exception, mostly ignore your part in the history of prophetic annexation. Sure, you get included in the Council’s greatest hits collection but are unceremoniously lumped together in second-class with your eleven minor compatriots. You knew Moses would get top billing. That was a given and you’ve got no arguments with that. Elijah and Elisha got only narrative inclusion, but they didn’t bother to write much down so it’s their own fault that they didn’t get books of their own. Still, Elijah got a lot of press later on for his stunt work and because Johnny Baptismo revived his primitive fashion sense—a total fluke.

But in spite of your major-league performance (as you would have to rate it), you are consigned to the sketchy clump of secondary prophetic contributors. Everybody can name the Quixotic Quartet; any bum at a bar can call them up, even after a few drinks. But it takes a freaking Biblical scholar, without hobbies, to name even a handful of the junior varsity squad. (Alas, poor Nahum, I knew him well—not to mention Obadiah and Zephaniah.) Talk about the ash heap of Biblical history.

You do your thing. (What else can you do?) If the audience loves you, you’re in like Flynn. If they hate your guts, you’re at least on the radar. But if they yawn—or worse, don’t even know your name or what your “line” is—well, that’s pretty much a fate worse than death. You’d trade your nice retirement condo in a minute for a little well-covered burning at the stake. But no. You’re destined to be one of that vague cloud of witnesses they tell about, a nearly nameless “hero of the faith” who takes his seat next to that blessed harlot Rahab. Yippee. You can almost see the stage from there.

It’s not that God doesn’t give you a decent review; he always takes note when somebody does what he’s told. Still, it’s hard to give the performance of your life (the only life you’ve got, mind you) and end up playing it off-off-off-Broadway. No move to the Great White Way, no national tour, no revivals. It’s a one-shot deal and you close. All that remains is your laughingly short score, and even that’s buried, virtually invisible, between the tomes of the titanic Tetrad and the gems of the Jesus juggernaut.

You remind yourself that timing is everything. Every hit has a B-side. Besides, getting the nod as a supporting player maybe ain’t no blue ribbon, but at least it’s an honorable mention. Not everybody can claim that. And who knows? As attention spans get shorter and shorter, maybe there’s still a chance to get some belated press. Yeah, right. Dream on.

Move on. It’s your job. It is what it is.

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