In Genesis 32, Jacob has just left his uncle Laban’s house where tensions were very high. He heads out and goes to meet his brother, Esau, who may very well kill him and take everything he owns. After sending gifts as well as all his family, servants, and possessions to meet Esau across the river, Jacob remains alone and terrified on the other side. That night, he wrestles with God until the sun comes up – refusing to let go until he is blessed. The man he is wrestling says,
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
And then it’s written,
Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Israel, the new name given to Jacob, means struggles or wrestles with God. So then the Israelites (or the children of Israel) are the ones who wrestle with God, or children of the one who wrestled with God. This name and a blessing are given after getting down in the dirt with God. I love that.
Yesterday, I turned 25. I would like to write 7 reflections detailing my own wrestling. They’ll serve to help me understand what I’m thinking through, perhaps be helpful or at least amusing to someone else, but mostly they’ll be a landmark. When I look back in another 25 years, I may just laugh – that’s what I have to do when I read myself from 10 years ago. Still, it helps to remember and honor the present struggle with God which I think is the task of the believer. In 25 years, these questions may seem insignifcant, or maybe not. But I won’t be able to look back unless I record them.
One of my heros wrote a song on his 25th birthday called “24,” and he’s still playing it now 20 years later. This is my own attempt at something like that. They will be published…soon.
The seven topics are (probaby) as follows:
- Difficulty of Hell & Ease of the Spiel
- Within Tradition
- (Too) Quick to Think, Slow to Dance
- Slipperiness of the Kingdom of Heaven
- The World in a Grain of Sand
- The Faith Required
- The Necessity of Struggling
I wanna see miracles, see the world change,
I wrestled the angel for more than a name,
More than a feeling, more than a cause,
Still I’m sining, Spririt take me up in arms with you,
(Switchfoot, “Twenty Four”)