This guy—the one with whom Jacob wrestled—where did he come from? Tradition has him down as an angel. Ever wonder where the people that most want to wrestle you come from? Would they dislocate your hip joint if given the chance? Oh, yeah.
“But,” you say, “They too are angels!”
Two concepts in this passage stand out to me. One is the wrestling, or grappling—that we all do from time to time. Somewhere in all the grappling lies a blessing. Do you feel blessed to be a part of your current ministry? How are the “angels” treating you this week?
This passage is ripe with strain: wrestling until daybreak, being struck on the hip socket, striving with God and humans, limping due to injury. A lot of stress. Frankly, the two wives, two maids, and eleven children would do it for me.
I sometimes wonder if the judo competition that takes place between angel and cleric is in some way necessary. The exhaustion that invariably follows surely represents something. Survival and success in judo, wrestling, and the like often depends on how one falls. How well do you fall when thrown? The more proficient the fall, the less likely a serious injury will occur. Not only is it easy to be injured, it is—unfortunately—easy to injure another.
The other aspect within the strain and struggle that seizes me is “Jacob was left alone.” Isolation. Isolation in ministry. Is there anything worse? Even introverts like me do not enjoy pastoral isolation. I hope today you are not feeling isolated. The Great Spirit is with you. Sometimes one’s greatest sermons or pastoral care come on the heels of a prolonged sense of isolation.
Most of the persons to whom you preach do not hate you. But it is interesting to observe the occasional angel’s determination to grapple with someone—his mother, his child; God, you. Perhaps the angel is feeling isolated. And maybe she doesn’t land well when thrown. The image of Jacob grappling with the angel is powerful: It pumps the neurons of even the most peaceful among us and sends the muscles into involuntary mini-spasm.
Hold onto that image of Jacob for awhile. If you’ve been in isolation, call up a colleague and have lunch. And demonstrate some grace for the person that doesn’t do well when thrown. You will see God face-to-face as the sun rises upon you—even when you are limping.
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