Life Notes—August 4, 2011
“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…The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” Genesis 32:24-25,31
The story of Jacob wrestling with an angel of God is told in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. Jacob is very distraught and alone on this sleepless night and wrestles with this heavenly being. They wrestle to a draw as the sun comes up and Jacob refuses to let the being go until it blesses him. In the being’s blessing he changes Jacob’s name toIsrael and says, “…for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Jacob may have prevailed, but the limp he received from his dislocated hip was a scar he carried the rest of his days, a mark of his wrestling with God.
I have wrestled with God as I’ve watched unrelenting illnesses ravage the bodies of friends and family, and as I’ve seen mental faculties leave aging loved ones. I wrestled with God at the tragic death of the five-year-old daughter of a co-worker. When I read of countries at war, starving children, addicted persons and broken homes I wrestle with God over what merits divine intervention. When life doesn’t go the way I feel it should or when I’m faced with a task I really do not want to do, I argue and cajole and plead and pray and cry and scream and kick and, well, I wrestle. Don’t you? Most such battles I lose, at least in the sense of not getting my way. But those battles leave a mark—maybe not a visible or physical mark like Jacob’s limp, but a mark nonetheless. When we struggle with God, the encounter will change and mark us. And that’s exactly the point. God invites us to bring what troubles us to the wrestling mat. And, as with Jacob, God doesn’t seek to destroy us, only to change us in ways better suited to God’s purposes. Be warned: no one can enter the presence of the Almighty and not be changed.
Jacob’s limp probably wasn’t an attractive feature, even in his day. But it was tangible evidence of his encounter with God. In wrestling with God he was molded and made over, shaped ever closer to the image of God he mirrored at creation. When was the last time you wrestled with God? What mark did it leave? Most of us have scars from going to the mat with God. So, if you see me limping along some Sunday morning, don’t worry too much. I’ve probably just been wrestling…
Reverend Stan Hughes will be preaching downtown this Sunday. His sermon is “What Does It Take To Open My Eyes?” His scriptures will be Romans 10:8 and Matthew 14:32-33. Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. Mitch’s sermon at the west campus is “Nothing Ventured,” based on Matthew 14:22-33. Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday. Let’s compare battle scars…
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator