It is no secret that I limp all the time nowadays. It’s become my regular walk, the result of arthritis in my knees and the occasional cycling crash or running injury. And all that limping recently made my reading of a Bible story even more personal than usual. Tuesday morning this week I sat in one of my favorite Whataburger booths reading my Daily Bible from Genesis 32, a story about a man named Jacob. He was moving his entire family, all his possessions, herds, and flocks, back home, toward his brother Esau who had publically vowed to kill him. It is a tense and stressful story.
Jacob cowardly sent his family and herds and servants ahead of him, in wave after wave, hoping to impress and appease Esau, hoping to save his own life. A manly man would’ve gone out ahead of the group, meeting Esau in person, but Jacob used his own family as a safety shield.
The story told about Jacob’s long night before the encounter with Esau. He spent his last night alone. Except, that he wasn’t alone.
The Bible says Jacob spent the entire night wrestling with a man. The man is not identified, but Jacob clearly knew this was God himself, or a representative of God, and Jacob saw this as his opportunity to win a blessing. The wrestling match eventually ended when the mysterious man touched Jacob’s hip near the socket, causing permanent debilitating injury that made Jacob limp the rest of his life.
In a previous reading of this story I wrote in the margin of my Bible: “We like to quote: ‘Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,’ but sometimes it leaves us crippled for life.”
Every time I read this particular Bible story I ask myself, Would I be satisfied with a personal touch and blessing from God if it meant a permanent disability? Would I consider that a fair trade? Would I consider it a blessing? Would it remind me of God, and point my focus toward Him?
I hope it would. I’d hate to take that sort of hit and waste it in bitterness and resentment.
But when I ask myself that question (Would I be satisfied with a touch form God if it meant permanent disability?), I’m not really asking the best question.
Instead of wondering whether Jacob’s limp was worth it, I should be asking, How would Jacob’s life have been different if he hadn’t wrestled with God at all? What if he’d surrendered instead? What if Jacob had asked God, “What do you want from me?”
What if Jacob had confessed his inability to succeed through trickery and manipulation, even though that’s all he’d tried his entire life, and asked, “Lord, teach me to trust you?”
Maybe God would have touched Jacob’s heart instead of his hip, leaving him with lifelong courage and character.
If only Jacob had acted in gratitude instead of resistance, in humility instead of arrogance, in surrender instead of combat, he might have lived the rest of his life known for strength and influence instead of his crooked gait.
QUESTION: How about you? When do you tend to wrestle when you should surrender instead?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32