“Please God, I don’t know who I am or how to BE me.” my heart screams.
“I am scared, alone, tormented, angry, resentful, and broken.” my soul clamors.
“I can fix it.” my head declares.
A friend sent me a link to a sermon today. The sermon is about Jacob wrestling with God. I have always loved this story and see myself as a grappler. I glorify in leaving with a limp after a well struggled match. I am not linking to the sermon because I have yet to get over the resentment to that pastor and friend and his rejection of me during my divorce.
Something new came from the story today, however. I have imagined this story to be a declaration from God that we are encouraged to wrestle with Him. We are invited into a sweaty and exhaustive relationship with God. Be aware, this will leave us changed, marked by a limp perhaps. I told my friend that I also see this story as God’s encouragement to have real relationships with other people. Jacob got into this by hiding out from his brother Esau. After this match, with a guy he thought was just a guy, he went and made true amends with Esau.
I considered the idea that this was a way for God to tell Jacob that to truly love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, we have to love others as well. I do not mean the love where we shave our heads and hand out flowers at airports. I am referring to that openness to get dirty in the connecting with other people.
Today, I started to consider that God renames Jacob after besting him. He gets named, Israel. God acknowledges that in Jacob is a man that enjoys the grapple. He understands that Jacob is stubborn and even a little devious. He looks at this animal skin wearing, birthright stealing, momma’s boy, and says, “Cool, standard Greco-Roman or shall I get my Dominator mask and stretchy pants?” Then he lets Jacob defend himself, try and control God. He allows Jacob to get ahold of Him, and maybe even pin Him down for a brief time. When Jacob just about has Him in a spine cruncher hold, God wrenches his hip (the Bible version of hitting him with a folding chair, as I understand it). All this just to take his name away? At the end of it, did God even take away the fake arm hair, the legal birthright, or the Oedipal complex?
God looks at him with love and says, “Be Israel, be who you are and stop fighting yourself, others, and me.”