Grace and Peace to you.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
I find it significant that the nation who worshiped Yahweh did not name themselves after Abraham, the father of us all, or Moses the great liberator, or David, the great king. They took the name Israel, Jacob’s new name that means “God-wrestler.” We are distinguished not by our superior faith or our unique land or even our particular history. We are distinguished as the people who wrestle with God.
We argue, we doubt, we cry out when God seems unjust or inattentive, we make impetuous demands, we bargain, and sometimes when God jumps us we even just plain fight back. (In the Bible, just thinking about God doesn’t count as theology: you have to get down and dirty and actually wrestle with God.)
God is no “unmoved mover.” God is a wrestling partner, one who challenges us, draws us into serious and sometimes even desperate struggle, a God who engages us. Moses and the prophets often bargained with God, disagreed, complained, criticized, and called God names. God seems to have loved it. God is the one who jumps into our darkness when we are left alone and says, “Bring it on.”
But God is not our enemy. God’s challenge is not to destroy us, diminish us or take away our power. It’s to get us going, like a sparring partner who gets a boxer to fight better. It’s to trick us into wrapping our arms around life, and laying our hands on God.
I don’t mean that God does mean things to us. It’s that in all of our struggles it’s really God we’re wrestling with. No matter what our struggles, our deepest anxiety is about our identity, our Source, our meaning, our future, our worth… which means we’re really wrestling with the One from whom those things come. This is good news, because as much as it may appear that the difficulties of our lives are our enemies, at their heart is a God who is our ally and deepest friend and companion.
God comes to us in dark, lonely places, in struggles and mystery. So grapple vigorously with this life and its Creator. Trust the grace that lurks in the night. You’ll be surprised how often God lets us win.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes