When you wrestle an Angel
I've been thinking a lot lately about a weird story in the Bible. Jacob is a character we meet early on in the book of Genesis. He's a little devious; tricks his brother and his father into giving him treasures he does not deserve and ends up on a hit list because of it. He escapes and lives a life away from all he has known for many years. Eventually he begins to make the journey home unsure of what he will find when he arrives. It is while camping one night that this strange story begins.
"A man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he could not win the match, he touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said 'Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!'
But Jacob said 'I will not let you go unless you bless me."
'What is your name?' the man asked.
He replied, 'Jacob.'
'Your name will no longer be Jacob,' the man told him. 'From now on you will be called Israel because you have fought with God and with men and have won.'"
See, I told you it was a weird story. Most interpretations say that this figure was some type of angelic figure. I've heard and read this story many times in my life, but recently it's been sticking in my head like an idea that won't go away. When this man renames Jacob he names him Israel. Of course we know Israel as a nation of God's chosen people. But I'm less interested in the macro level of this name...I'm interested in the micro level. The name Israel can literally be interpreted to mean "he struggles with God"
And here we arrive at the root of my thoughts. Jacob struggles with this man, this man who is a representation of God. He will not give up. It blows my mind that in the above passage it says the man knew he could not win the match. He knew that Jacob was never going to give up. They were just going to keep going and going. So he takes drastic measures to slow him up (to be honest it seems a little bit like cheating but I digress.) But what's even more amazing? Even after his hip has been wrenched out of its socket Jacob will not let go of this man. He continues the struggle. He demands a blessing before he will stop fighting.
Lately it feels like I'm in a wrestling match with God. I roll around with him on the topics that give me the most anger, grief, and stress over and over again. Living in a world that wants simple answers to complicated questions can make my wrestling match even more complicated. I'm not just wrestling God, I'm wrestling the people around me. We aren't good at watching others struggle. It's in our nature to step in and offer solutions. But here we have a story that proves God is with us in our wrestling. He doesn't demand Jacob stop. In fact the only one making demands in this story is Jacob. In asking for a blessing it's like Jacob is demanding that God make the wrestling worth it. If he's going to fight he wants something out of it. And he does get something out of it. A new name that defines who he will be forevermore; someone who wrestles with God. Not someone who wrestled once and won. But someone who wrestles; in the present tense. Implying that this wrestling will be a constant in his life.
I know I'm not the only one wrestling with big questions. And I want those who are in the midst of that struggle to find the peace I have found in this story. Don't pay attention to those who tell you that there is a simple answer to your question. That if you pray hard enough, believe hard enough, love hard enough you'll get your answer. Jacob is proof we aren't always going to get the answers. But this doesn't mean we stop asking the question. Jacob had a hip wrenched out of socket, yet his grip was so tight he still held on until he got his blessing. And his blessing was to always be a searcher. It may feel like our hips are out of socket, but don't let go. Hold on and receive your blessing.
God knows we'll have questions. He also won't always give us an answer. But he'll always bless us for being willing to participate in the struggle. So keep going and struggle well. Our blessing is around the corner.