Reflections from The Hill – Limping
You may have gathered by now that I have a bit of a leaning toward the Old Testament, particularly when it comes to the Isaac, Jacob and Joseph sagas.
For an amateur wordsmith like me, these yarns are lively examples of God’s dealing with some of the world’s rogues, cheats and ne’er-do-wells, many of whom could easily have been members of my own family.
Move over Underbelly and Power Without Glory. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the
we’re hearing in Church currently. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that Church is boring. Readings
That’s not the way our society tells it. Out there in society-land, Church is boring and God is portrayed as everyone’s friend, as the giver of all good things, is always on the look out to bless us in abundance and would never harm a fly.
This view makes the current episode about Jacob a bit disturbing. In fact, when one looks at all of this week’s
, you’d have to say that anguish is at the heart each of them, a far cry from the God-as-wooss view. Readings
This part of Jacob’s story is unsettling, to say the least. Not only does the story lack clarity, there is the presence of this shadowy, dark, figure with whom Jacob wrestles all night. All night? No ‘best of three falls’ in this match here, obviously.
Jacob’s trying to get home to patch up things with his brother, the hairy Esau, whom he swindled out of an inheritance. As an aside, maybe Jacob was the one who started the saying “Where’s there’s a will there’s a relative”. Whatever; Jake is about to square things off with his big bro and, as he goes, is fast becoming a candidate for
Valium, such is his anxiety.
In the dead of night, Jacob is set upon by a shadowy stranger who engages him in a fight that exceeds anything you’ll ever see on Smackdown. What a match.
I suspect the stranger was either a politician, a lawyer or a journo: he made no comment and neither confirmed nor denied who he was. Jacob becomes convinced that Mr No-Name is, in fact, God himself. With a history of looking to get an advantage, Jacob wasn’t going to let Him go without being paid back for the sand in his eyes.
“If this is God whom I’m wrestling, the least he can do is give me a blessing,” says Jake. But, here’s the scary bit: God gives him a blessing, but dislocates Jacob’s hip in the process.
“Some God you’ve got there, old boy,” we say. “I thought He cared for people …” It’s literally a low blow but, in the end, Jacob gets both a blessing and a limp for his troubles: “blessed but crippled” as someone has put it.
Personally speaking, I wouldn’t’ be making this story the centrepiece of an evangelistic crusade or an advertising campaign for Back To Church Sunday, but that’s only my view.
At an experiential level, however, there is something familiar about this story because many of us can identify with Jacob: assaulted by God, assaulted by the Church, by our family, by the world, by everything.
For many, a relationship with God is a real wrestle, often through long night-watches. It often happens when we’re on a journey to put something right, when we’re really working at drawing near to God and becoming the person God wants us to be and all we get is a shadowy, elusive and uncooperative presence in return and a pile of grief that leaves us limping for life.
Of course, I can be, and have been, grateful for the blessings that have reshaped my life and have borne fruits of gratitude from deep within that might otherwise not have come. Often I can recognise the unmistakeable fingerprints of God all over the wrestle. But that’s hindsight, where 20/20 vision reigns.
Often, when one’s actually in the fight, it would be nice to know there might have been another, gentler, way, a way that didn’t leave a scar that still causes us to limp, a cup of suffering that we didn’t have to drink.
Many have walked away from wrestling at this point, sans dislocation and sans blessing. It all gets too hard and we wonder which is the best option: stay and get injured or walk away in freedom. It’s a helluva choice.
Perhaps I’m a dreamer and there is no other way. It’s an odd comfort that tells me Jesus didn’t find that way, either, if there was one. He wrestled with God and copped wounds that have never been healed, either. So we hang in there.
If God is the central character in all of these sagas, then one would have to say that He’s got a funny way of showing His love for us. Clearly, He wants only the best for his people but wrestling to the point of injury? Come on.
He’s obviously no namby-pamby God who faints at the sight of blood nor wimps out on making the cuts that will reconstruct us into the Imago Christi, the likeness of Jesus.
This is a God whose love is tough enough to wound us when it is the only alternative to bring us into the blessings that have been made possible for us by our wounded saviour.
Furthermore, this is a God who has the tough courage to be wounded by us, and crucified by us over and over again, rather than let us walk off unscarred, unsure whether we have got what it takes to face the fears of tomorrow.