|THE JOYFUL NOISE
Wrestling With God
As we go through life we all face challenges. No one escapes them. We face situations that we are not prepared for and respond in the best or only way we know. This is also true of the people who lived in ancient times, like the ancient Israelites. The family of God has plenty of stories about these life challenges. For example, in Genesis chapters 27 through 33, we see a family face challenges and how the move through them. We see deception, theft, hurt, and broken relationships. Jacob steals his brotherís birthright by deceiving his father, Isaac who was legally blind. In his hurt anger and loss of his inheritance, Esau vows revenge and plans on murdering his brother once Isaac passes away. The mother and source of the idea to steal the Esauís inheritance suggests that Jacob run for his life and not return until things cooled down. Jacob leaves home and travels several hundred miles away to live with his relative Laban.
We pick up the story 20-years later when Jacob is traveling back home his family and brother who is on his way to meet him with an army of men. Jacob now faces the brother who he cheated and the consequences of his actions. Jacob has lived with his dishonesty for 20-years, representing himself as the heir to his fatherís throne and inheritance while he knows in side that he achieved his privilege though cheating.
Itís easy to read this ancient story and think about it as something distant and unrelated to our lives in 2018. The truth is, we all make mistakes and fail one another at times. We all can do things that disappoint someone we love. Jacob knew that whatever happened with his brother, he had to face him. He wrestled with God because he wanted to find peace. He wanted internal resolution to his shame and guilt. He didnít want to be called the deceiver anymore.
He wrestled with God all night long. He didnít turn and run back to his Laban. He didnít escape by taking his own life. He didnít come up with a reason to defend his actions. He came to terms with himself. He looked inside and said, ďI want freedom from this guilt! I cannot go any longer in this way of thinking and living.Ē It may be the hardest thing a man does in his entire life, look inside at the contents of his heart to see his own dishonesty.
We guys get the wrestling part, we can take on the toughest challenge when it comes to the outside world. We face difficult situations that demand physical strength and the endurance to work through the problem. We go the extra mile for those we love without complaining or saying anything about how we feel. Thatís because we are men!
We find a way to cover unexpected bills and emergencies while keeping it together. The pressure takes its toll because feelings are bottled up inside. Expression of feelings acts like a release valve, giving us relief. We are not meant to hold everything inside even though the tough guy model suggests that we do.
Jacob was at the point where he could not hold his feelings in check any longer. They were all coming to the surface after years of bottling them up. God knew this and when the time came for him to face his own guilt, hurt and dishonesty, God was there to meet him. Thatís because the point where God is most likely to get our attention is when we are in a crisis; when we are confronted with the feelings inside. If you are in a fix, God will be there right with you. He showed up that night when Jacob feared for his life and in his appearance, Jacob wrestled with God. Jacob fought for his spiritual life and for peace and freedom from the torment of his deeds.
Now God was here with him in his struggle, in his torment. He did not defeat God, even though it appears in the text that he had won. Thatís because he was not wrestling God, but wrestling with God. The two were working together to conquer his torment. As a result, he had gained the blessing that he so needed. He had spent the night wrestling with God, not as a competitive context of will, but as a bonding in faith. He had gained new standing by facing God with his lies and deception and received the blessing. He received the mantle of inheritance that God gives to all of his children, including men. And in doing so he was given a new name, Israel.
This story is about you and your life and your challenges. It helps us see how looking inside can lead to renewal and transformation, freedom from guilt and fear. When Jacob got up that morning and limped his way to his reunite with his estranged brother he had a clean heart. He had a clear conscience. He was free from his deception, because in that encounter he met God and, in his confession, came to terms with his guilt. His great fear of his brother melted away when he saw Esau came running out to meet him with open arms. They embraced and cried with joy.
It is a powerful story that unfolded over a 20-year period. Itís a story about a young man who wanted his fatherís love and approval and blessing so much that he would steal his brotherís birthright. Itís a story about guilt, shame and hard feelings held for decades. And finally, it is the story about a man who finally found the courage to look inside and face himself with the truth. And when he did, God was there to meet him. The toughest battles we face as men, are those that come from the world inside of us, the world of feelings. Let us have the courage to share risk sharing them. Let us risk the effort to live with a clean heart.
Grace and peace,
IN OUR THOUGHTS AND IN OUR PRAYERS:
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