Wrestling with Jacob

Gauguin, Paul ( 1888) Jacob Wrestling the angel

I don’t know why it happened that way,” she said, “I’ve asked myself why was I there at that moment? What if I’d been five minutes later? Is that the moment that changed everything for me

Human beings are like living question marks. And there are few easy answers to the most meaningful questions we ask: Questions about ourselves, the roads we’ve traveled,  and what that journey has made of us. Questions to and for and about God.

Like Jacob wrestling that mysterious stranger in the dark, wrestling the whole night long, we wrestle with our questions: Am I loved? What will happen to me? Can I be forgiven for this? The night is an inscrutable audience for the hungry questions that chirp around us like birds to be filled.

And mostly we don’t get instant answers or the kind of answers we expected. Like the old prayer that begins: I asked for strength that I might achieve and I was made weak that I might humbly obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity that I might do better things…

Life becomes a journey exploring questions like who will I be, what will I do, will the world make room for me? Questions that slowly find an answer in ways we never expected. Like Jacob’s questions aren’t answered directly but by the time the sun rises he is both blessed and wounded by the struggle, finding enough to go on and do what we has to do.

Faith, hope and love are more than just words, they give us the strength to wrestle with what should overpower us.

When I was on the threshold of being an adult I don’t think I ever imagined how my most meaningful questions would find their answer in the way they have. I didn’t discover a set of ready made answers but, in all I’ve lived and tried to love; through all I failed at or never found, I was given the strength to be picked up and go on, both blessed and wounded.

No ready- made answers but wrestled out of our experience in all we live, in who love, in the hurts we receive and beauty that’s left us breathless w,e find the strength to hold onto life until it blesses us.

The story of Jacob wrestling by the Jaboock River is one always feels fresh to me.

Jacob: A man who has bluffed and schemed his way through life, not a good man, not someone you could easily trust. He deceived his father, robbed his brother, swindled his father in law. And yet there was a part of Jacob that could fall in love, and his crooked heart could recognise and be moved by the innocence of holiness, Meeting God in his dreams, wanting God’s blessing.

I like Jacob because like us he is made up of contradictions.

We meet him at nightfall with only the sound of the river and the hearts tight drum beating to the news that had reached him: his brother Esau was on his way here; a brother who promised his mother: if ever I see his face I will kill Jacob.

Jacob is out of options. He has no-where to run except back to the home he fled and Esau is coming, the man who wants Jacob dead. Nightfall is no company and alone Jacob begins to wrestle:

Wrestling with what he’s done and all he might have done differently…wrestling with the threat ahead and if anything might still save him. It’s here God comes and meets Jacob. God Incarnates himself into this wrestling:

In a headlock, twisting an arm, throwing a hip out of joint, as Jacob wrestles with his circumstances, as he wrestles with what to do next…its here God comes to find him; in the struggle of what was happening Jacob sees the face of God -Although he doesn’t recognise it in the wrestling match.

As we struggle to make sense of our lives, in our wrestling, the face of God is made known to us. God bares his arm and rolls around in the dust of unanswerable questions, in the sleepless ring wrestling with our sadness, wrestling with regret wrestling with our longings, wrestling with our guilt, trying to win a way forward, to win a breathing space.

The face of God is shown to us, we see God here, with us, wrestling, though like Jacob do we fail to recognise God in that place and time?

wrestling with meaning: what has my life meant, what can it still mean? Where are you God? In the questions we wrestle we discover who we are.

Jacob is changed by his wrestling, given a new name in the wrestling match. He finds a new identity. Blessed and wounded he goes on. As we walk with God, as we learn to struggle with faith, as we learn to live by hope, as we try and practice love we are given the gift of who we are by God, we find the meaning of our lives.

But we also know that won’t come without some hardship – life leaves us with a limp. We are marked by what we are wrestled with.

God is with us and all things must work for the good of those who love the lord is the promise we are given by saint Paul. A promise we can trust because Jesus has wrestled in his flesh and bone all that would master or destroy us; on the cross he wrestled sin and death; he wrestled open the gates of hell That all may be welcome, forgiven, and made whole.

Come the morning we walk with a limp, but we are blessed to go on none the less.

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