Monday, October 24, 2011

The Wrestler: Bonus thoughts on Jacob

One of my kids' favorite activities is to wrestle with dad. In fact, yesterday after an incredibly long day (in a good way!), my two youngest and I had one of the most epic wrestling matches we've ever had.

As I was thinking about that, I couldn't help but think about Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. It's a weird passage of Scripture. It really is. I mean, who wrestles God? And how in the world does Jacob hang with Him all night long? And then there's verse 25:
When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
Whoever this "man" is - we later learn that He is divine. Jacob goes so far as to say that He saw God face to face. So, what does it mean that "the man" (God? an angel?) could not overpower Jacob? And yet, despite the fact that He can't overpower, all it takes is a touch to send Jacob to the chiropractor with a displaced hip. Weird isn't it?

But then I got to thinking about wrestling with my kids. My kids and I don't wrestle with the intent of "winning." We aren't trying to pin each other. It's not about overpowering each other. It's about the struggle. They love to struggle with dad. But let's be honest - if I wanted to win, that wrestling match could be over in a second (at least for a few more years!).

I don't believe that the man "could not" overpower Jacob as much as he "would not" overpower him. The evidence of that being the fact that he easily disabled Jacob once he decided it was time to be done. I think the "could not" refers to the fact that Jacob was persistent. He wasn't going to let go or give up no matter what. And THAT, I get. Once me and my kids get going in a wrestling match, I CAN'T match their intensity and persistence. Eventually, I pin them down just so I can take a break.

Yesterday I encouraged us to get in the ring and wrestle with God. I encouraged us all to see the struggle as a necessary part of our new identity that is waiting on the other side. But today, as a wrestling father, a couple of other thoughts came to mind:
  1. DON'T WRESTLE THE WRONG PERSON. As my kids and I wrestle - I'm protecting them the whole time. I'm watching out for them, I'm softly giving them resistance. Jacob doesn't wrestle Esau (the guy who wants to kill him). He wrestles God - the one who loves him and wants to gently restore him and give him a new identity.
  2. WRESTLE WITH A PURPOSE. It isn't about winning, it's about the struggle. If you wrestle God with the intent to win, I've got some bad news. God is never going to say "uncle". But here's the encouraging thing - he isn't going to overpower you either. He won't force you to submit. The struggle is the point. It's the struggle that softens our heart.
  3. CELEBRATE THE LIMP. In one quick move, Jacob is both wounded and healed at the same time. That wound given by God is what takes Jacob (deceiver) into his new identity and a future he never could have imagined. Your limp is the outward evidence of the inward touch of God. Limp proudly into your new identity.


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