Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting what you ask for.

I've always been more than a little curious about the wrestling match described in the Bible where Jacob wrestles with a "man". It's found in Genesis 32 if you're interested in reading it for yourself - towards the end of the chapter.

But here Jacob is, wrestling, and he announces something to the effect of "I'm going to keep fighting you, until you bless me."
Thus, the man he's struggling with announces "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."


There's a tiny bit more conversation then it says "He blessed him there" and that's pretty much the end of it except for Jacobs grateful announcement that he's seen the face of God and lived.

That's the end.

But if I were Jacob, I'd be asking some questions.

The first one being "What on earth does that mean?"

As a prince I have power with God and with men? What's that mean? Does that mean God hears his prayers better? He's more likely to get a 'Yes" answer than the rest of us non-princely folks? What does that mean?

And how is it that after his saying that, Jacob automatically accepted that he had received a blessing even though it obviously wasn't something visible?

Did he feel different? Did he have some new inner knowledge that something had changed for him? And also, if the information that now as a prince he had power with God and man was the blessing... why does it later say that "he blessed him there".

Some of the retold histories in the Bible leave me scratching my head in wonder.

But here's the one thing that I do get from out of my confusion from the story.

When God says He's going to bless you, it doesn't always look like something tangible. It doesn't look like how I want it, or expect it, to look. The world might not be able to see it, and I may not feel different. But when Jehovah God announces that I am something, then I'm that something. If He announces I'm a princess among God and men, then I don't care that I'm still sleeping in the dirt the next night with a rock for a pillow - by goodness I'm a princess.

This lesson is important to me because I tend to expect certain things to look certain ways and I'll keep fighting or struggling or pushing until they look how I expect. But when God blesses me, or speaks something over me, then it is. It simply IS. Whether I can see it, feel it, taste it, experience it, understand it, acknowledge it, or believe it. I am exactly what God says I am.

I wish I understood the story better. But the lesson I've learned from it is just as valuable even though I still have questions.

You see I don't know how I've been blessed. Maybe the unique blessing I have in life is just the abundant joy that is overflowing to a degree that just doesn't make sense. Or maybe the blessing He's placed on my life is simply that of being a foster parent. But, though I don't understand it, I don't feel the urge to wrestle Him for it anymore. It is mine.


J. W. Poteet II said...

Ok, so this is a really fascinating story that has me noticing two things today. First, pretty wise of Jacob not to name the blessing he demanded, just demanding a blessing. Probably, he would not have chosen a new name, but it was actually something he probably really appreciated. Second, I have two questions. One, why is Jacob literally, physically wrestling with God? Second, why is God wrestling with Jacob? Because God showed up looking for a fight! Like the bad guy in a western who walks into the bar and says to the wimpy guy, "You're in my spot!" You say, that's nuts, you don't know that! Yes I do. First, God is omniscient, He knows the end from the beginning so if He shows up knowing a fight is going to happen... Second, He doesn't talk He just starts fighting. He doesn't show up with "My son, I have come to bless thee." He just starts swinging. Third, He fights all night. This is like me fighting all night with my 8 yr old and claiming he started it and wouldn't let me go. No, God showed up spoiling for a fight and Jacob, being Jacob, obliged. Maybe God isn't who we thought He was. Sometimes He's the God who shows up looking for a fight. We think we've got God in a safe little box because He made these promises that He supposedly can't break. But I think C.S. Lewis understood something about the true nature of God when he said in the Chronicles of Narnia about Aslan, "He's not a TAME lion!" You see, sometimes the God who heals all our diseases smites you on the thigh and you limp for the rest of your life. Sometimes, your child dies of cancer. Sometimes people who serve the God who supplies all their needs apply for foodstamps, get kicked out of their house and lose their job. Sometimes the God who gives His angels charge over you lest you dash your foot against a stone sends a tornado to wipe out your house, a flood kills your wife, or a gang member shoots your 5 year old son. Sometimes, He doesn't do what He'd said He'd do. He's not a TAME God! And yes, someday you may stand before the Throne of God and He may look you in the eye and say "Go to Hell, I don't know you!" And as your heart pounds, and adrenaline causes your knees to shake and your eyes bug out of your head you'll stammer, "But I've been a christian all my life! I've even done miracles in Your Name!" And the God who said He'd forgive all your sins will shrug and say there was a man one day who was thirsty and you didn't offer him a drink. And maybe God was in that kind of mood the day He met Jacob and Jacob did the only thing any self respecting man can do in that situation. He punched Him right in the face!

flyawaynet said...

And the lamb may think nothing of biting the shepherd for ruthlessly breaking it's leg.