(This post’s a little longer today, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and continue with me on this journey…)
And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail again him, He touched the socket of his hip: and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
So He said to him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Jacob.”
And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.
Then Jacob asked saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”
And He said, “Why is it you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face-to-face, and my life is preserved.” Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. (Genesis 32:22032)
So let me set the stage for this passage:
Old Jacob is an unhappy, terrified man, which means he’s probably depressed too. (Everyone gets depressed to some degree when they think their life is out of control. Out of their control, anyway.)
Twenty years earlier Jacob had deceived his father, “stole” his brother Esau’s birthright blessing and had to run for his life when Esau threatened to hunt him down and kill him. Jacob runs to his Uncle Laban’s and, to shorten a long story, has the tables turned on him when Laban pulls a bait-and-switch with the daughter Jacob was to marry.
Uncle Laban continues to lie to and take advantage of Jacob, and, after twenty years, Jacob finally pulls up his tent stakes and flees town—and Uncle Laban—and heads back home.
That means Jacob will have to confront Esau. And he’s terrified about it.
Jacob has come to the end of his rope. He’s old, he’s tired. He’s run out of schemes. He’s got Esau in front of him and Uncle Laban behind him. He spent much of his life manipulating, deceiving and running, (and stealthily acquiring a vast assortment of tangible wealth), but now he’s spent— physically, emotionally. Spiritually.
And there’s Someone who knows it. He’s been waiting years for Jacob to finally throw in the towel. And He’s right there when it happens.
God’s been following Jacob. Wherever Jacob’s run, God’s been right behind him. Whatever Jacob’s done, God’s been watching.
Jacob has finally run out of ideas and wits. He’s run out of self.
And that’s when he struggles with God. And in his struggling, he finally gives in, relinquishes, and begs God for His blessing. He knows he can no longer live a double-minded life, and he’s determined to not go on this time without God. Oh sure, he’d praised God for God’s blessings plenty of times, even built a nice rock altar to God after a prophetic dream he had. But he’d never truly turned his heart and all of his life—and his future—over to God. He always stubbornly relied on his own brains and abilities.
And God asked Jacob his name. Do you really think God didn’t know his name? He knew it. It means “supplanter,” and I think in making Jacob say his name aloud must have made Jacob think hard about what his name meant, and how he, sadly, had lived up to that moniker. His life had fulfilled the meaning. And it must have saddened him to say it aloud, to hear it ring back in his ears.
But God doesn’t want to leave Jacob there. He wants to not only change Jacob’s heart but also change Jacob’s name, and in so doing, change Jacob’s life and legacy.
But take note: In this turning over, Jacob’s permanently wounded. He walked and ran before; now he limps. It’s the mark of God on his life, a permanent reminder to whom he belongs and with Whom he’s been battling. He’ll never forget that day, that moment.
So what does all of this have to do with me, with my story? With yours?
I mentioned in my last post that I needed to return to the location of my Peniel—the place where it at least felt as though I’d wrestled with God and seen Him face-to-face. The place where I’d been injured and left with a permanent “scar,” physically and psychologically. Like Jacob, I was worn out, depleted, done, at the bottom. Self had run out, and I needed to admit it.
So many years ago I’d abruptly averted my face after a real encounter with God and looked beyond His countenance, over His shoulder, to where the light wasn’t so bright and blinding. So exposing. Many times I’d swiftly pivoted and run from it. Now it was time to double-back and face its fullness. It was time to fully relinquish my heart to God and allow Him to take control of my life, without reservation. To hold on and beg for His blessing.
I’d tasted what the world offered, and it only provided fleeting fun, shallow promises, repeated calamity, heartache, and a painful, destructive path. And Satan had been vociferously triumphant as he left parts of me strewn at intervals along that path. No more.
The prodigal daughter wanted to go home.
When I finally gathered courage to gaze fully into God’s presence, I met His perfect, holy brilliance, His unmistakable power and glory. And when that happens you, like Jacob, get a good look at yourself—at your life—in a mirror.
I gaped in horror at my reflection. Everything about me lay exposed, including the prospects of a future without God. He wasn’t shocked by what He saw; He’d been watching my life play out for thirty-three years. I, however, was ashamed and repulsed by the vision. With trembling fear and helpless humility, I landed on my face—literally— before a Holy God.
I knew I was on holy ground; and, yes, I was afraid.
But lying on my face, feeling horrid and puny, wasn’t enough. Something else needed to happen. I needed to do something.
That something happened immediately…
Do you feel directionless, as though your life is out of control? Have you been running from something, or someone? Are you terrified of the future? Do you feel as though you’re struggling with something and can’t get victory over it?
Maybe, just maybe, you’ve been struggling—wrestling—with God and didn’t know it. Maybe He’s following you around, trying to get your attention and you’re ignoring Him. Life will never get better until He’s got your attention. Oh, life might get a little better for a while, but it won’t get better permanently. You won’t have the transformation you want without Him.
God doesn’t want to leave you wrestling in an eternal power struggle with Him. He wants to change your heart, change your life and legacy. When you finally stand face-to-face with God, make sure you hang on and beg for Him to bless you. Don’t let go until He does.
But there’s a warning: When the sun rises you might find He’s left a limp-causing mark on you. But that’s okay because when you look at it, feel it, live everyday with it, the limp reminds you of Him and the day He touched you.
You’ll eventually regard that limp as a blessing instead of a curse.
NEXT WEEK: What I needed to do: to change my life, recover from my pain, and think clearly about my future and the possibility of another chance, another pregnancy. A baby. My next step in the transformation…
Until next week.
Thanks for joining me!
(Tuesday, October 1 is my one-year blogging anniversary. What a year it’s been! Thank you for joining me on this journey. May we all continue to grow and heal together through another year!)