I love Scripture. And I have several stories from Scripture that are my absolute favourites. My favourite Psalm – Psalm 121 – proclaims “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord. The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” Beautiful Psalm of trust and assurance.
One of my favourite New Testament stories is the story of Peter and the vision of the unclean sheets recorded in Acts 10. I love the story of Peter seeing a vision of an unclean sheet being let down from the heavens with every type of unclean animal on there, and a voice telling him to “Rise Peter – kill and eat!”. I love how Peter understood this to be the call to inclusion in the early Christian community – to include even Gentiles (up to this point, only Jewish people were part of this Christian community). How this radical message created a stir with the leadership. How they had to call a council meeting to debate on whether or not those unclean Gentiles should be welcomed. And how the radical message of inclusion prevailed, and so began the first chapter of many in the church where groups previously thought to be unclean, or unqualified, or sinful, or related to a certain class were welcomed fully into the Church of Jesus Christ. Still gives me chill bumps and teary eyes.
But I want to briefly reflect on the great story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. The story is recorded in Genesis 32: 22 – 32. Jacob was on a journey. He sent his wives and family ahead of him so that he was left all alone when he got into a wrestling match with an angel. Apparently Jacob was quite the wrestler because he was starting to win in this match. So much so that this Being touched Jacob’s hip socket, making it very painful for Jacob to wrestle as a way to “fix” the match. But Jacob kept on wrestling. This Being tried to leave, but Jacob refused. And here is the key rich truth in this story that I offer reflection: Jacob said “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
Modern life is filled with struggles. It seems as if the pace of life increases moment by moment. We too have our own individual struggles as well. We tend to cover up or suppress fear, failure, worry, despair, doubt, and discouragement. The lure of the success culture of western life asks us to put on our “Sunday best” to cover up or suppress these uncomfortable realities. The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel though asks us to take off our Sunday best, to put away our false self, and present ourselves to God just as we are. And wrestle. This story is an invitation to face our fears, discouragements, failures, and weaknesses and to wrestle. And keep wrestling. Even wrestle with God as we acknowledge our doubts and worries and failures.
This time of wrestling can be long and scary as we acknowledge our vulnerabilities. Even the Wrestler said to Jacob “let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob refused to give up and said he will not leave until he receives his blessing. And so the Wrestler blessed Jacob with a new name – Israel.
Jacob experienced the blessing of a new name. An inner change. A freedom. A surrender. A release. As Jacob faithfully wrestled by facing his fears, he eventually received his blessing of transformation.
My encouragement to you is to keep wrestling. Keep struggling with whatever it is that asks to be hidden. Keep talking. Keep sharing. Open your hearts. And know that the promise of Psalm 30:5 is just as real now as it was then: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Your joy – your freedom – is coming.