"And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his 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 has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
I pressed the snooze button a few too many times and as I stumbled down the hall in the dark this morning, I couldn't shake the dream I had last night. In it I was walking with an acquaintance in the woods, and there was some confusion about the level of vulnerability in our relationship. I wanted them to know I was willing to listen and empathize with their current level of suffering, but I couldn't put that into words that seemed appropriate. I woke with a feeling of unease and frustration.
As I prepared myself for the day, I started thinking about life and how we all struggle at some point. We can't keep moving along without bumps in the road or the rug suddenly pulled out from under us.
We feel lost, confused, like our identity is stolen. We think, "Wouldn't a loving God want to make us happy?" "Why is this happening?"
It was then that the story of Jacob wrestling with God came to mind. When I look at the story, it is easy for me just to skip to the blessing part without thinking about the context. Jacob was constantly running away from something. In this instance, he was about to meet his brother, from whom he stole his entire inheritance. Alone, in the dark, Jacob meets a mysterious man and they wrestle. In the midst of the battle, Jacob becomes permanently lame. But notice that he persists in the struggle, knowing and verbalizing that in the end God will bless him. And what does he receive?
A new name. A new identity. A new, more vulnerable, painful way of walking and living, but he has changed and understands he has been delivered through seeing God face to face in the struggle.
Does Jacob's life continue smoothly from there? Nope. But I think he walked with a better understanding of who God is in adversity.
I prayed that for my acquaintance in my dream this morning. I've prayed it today for various other friends walking through hard times. I pray that we would all persist in our sufferings, be able to see God face to face in them, and walk through them towards our new identity in Him.