There are sometimes few words to describe spiritual struggles. The words seem trite and small compared to how real the struggle feels. So we are left wordless and longing, wishing that somehow, someway, the struggle could be over and our faith repackaged, reconstructed into something we understand.
But if we understood it, would it be too small?
These are my questions these days as I wrestle with God and as I move into the second week of the Lenten Season of the Orthodox Church. The questions have led me to look at Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.
In terms of deceit, Jacob was a master and stole the birthright blessing from under the nose of his twin brother. Poor old Esau is left, becoming the hidden part of a title of a children’s book for the words that are recorded “Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated.” I won’t even touch that because it’s too disturbing, but it should be noted that Jacob’s life hardly improved after he received that fatherly blessing. Instead, he ran away and ended up having to work hard for a wife, only to be deceived by his future father-in-law into marrying the wrong daughter. He ended up with two wives and enough domestic disputes to fill a six-season reality show. Parents who want to censor books that their children read may want to begin with the Bible. It doesn’t take long to find deceit, murder, and rape. But it also doesn’t take long to find redemption woven throughout the narrative and God doing what he continues to do so faithfully: Take a mess and by his mercy change it into something remarkable.
So while Jacob’s life from the beginning is interesting, my thoughts have centered around an event that is well-recorded in Biblical history; a time when Jacob physically wrestled with God. At God’s leading, Jacob left his father-in-law’s home, accompanied by his wives, his children and his flocks. He hears that his brother Esau is coming, and, remembering how he deceived him so many years before, he is rightfully nervous. Jacob ends up alone in the desert and he wrestles with God. Not an emotional wrestling, a physical wrestling. But here is the astounding thing – Jacob was winning. Jacob, a mere mortal is wrestling with God – and Jacob pins him down. “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” says God. But Jacob will not let him go.
“I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” These words have to be some of the most arrogant ever quoted in scripture. But God listens; God blesses him, and Jacob’s faith finally becomes his own.
I will not let you go, unless you bless me. These are bold words, yet Jacob said them.During this season, these are the words I want to say to God. I want the courage to hold on tight and say “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!”
As for Jacob? In a few years he would face some of the worst trauma in his traumatic life when he was deceived into believing his beloved son Joseph was dead. Even so, his words as he told of his encounter with the living God are unforgettable: “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
REMEMBER! The book giveaway of Meditations is still open until the Monday after Western Easter! Leave a comment on that post and you will be entered into the drawing. Two copies will be given away, so your chances automatically double.
*Story is from the book of Genesis 32:24-32