Once upon a time, I viewed brokenness as my cross to bear. I saw it as a gauntlet of custom divined, painful experiences created to refine my character. My understanding of the cross was that it’s intensity correlated to the degree of work that needed to be done on my wicked heart. There have been seasons where the intensity of things suggested that (at least with me) God was working on a wretch of a bit higher order.
I believed that to make it to the finish line it would require a passive (fatalistic) kind of acceptance of each thing that touched my life. I could tell you precisely why I believed this was true scripturally; but unfortunately, not very joyfully. My future, given the health, relational and (at times) vocational / financial trends looked bleak. Perhaps this sound familiar? If so take courage, there is hope!
Jacob’s future was very shaky as well. He was about to meet up with Esau, a sibling he had swindled, who would likely kill him and plunder his belongings. Just before Jacob was to encounter his estranged brother and realize his tragic end, he is left alone at the ford of the Jabbok River. It was there he entered into a prolonged struggle with God that lasted until sunrise.
This scene fascinates me. Jacob, whose life is similar to our own, in that his future was uncertain, was anything but passive and fatalistic. No, there was NO WAY Jacob was going to waste this much energy without a benefit!
Then God said, “Let me go. for the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I WILL NOT let You go unless you bless me“.
This reminds me so much of a scene from the movie Patton. Listen to the dialogue between Patton (played by George C. Scott) and his chief aid, William Meeks……
Patton: (intensely introspective) “I’ve always felt that I was destined for some great achievement, what I don’t know.”
Aid: “Yes, sir.”
Patton: (musing – with GREAT pathos) “The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire world at war, and I’m left out of it?!”……..(with GREATER passion still) “God WILL NOT permit this to happen!”……(and then with VIOLENT resolve) “I WILL be allowed to fulfill my destiny!”
(with reverence as if this has now become a settled matter in the cosmos) “His will be done.”
I was taken with this scene because it so closely resembles the latter part of a season where I had just about expended the last of my reserves in a prolonged struggle with God – a long exhausting season of just trying to endure the obstacle course I believed that He had set before me. I can’t explain precisely why, but something VERY strong rose up from within me that said, “I WILL NOT permit this season to pass without the specific blessing of understanding God’s heart”. I know this may sound egocentric, but I felt (with a peculiar certainty) that I too had a great destiny; that the last great battle was before me and it was my destiny to make a contribution. I cannot tell you how foreign this tone was at that time to my spiritual ears which had been tuned into a more passive acceptance and fatalistic band width.
And God said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob”. And God said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel: for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
I feel confident that God approves of our aggressive and steely resolve to realize our identities and to fulfill our destinies. I believe that this is actually a part of our inheritance as co-heirs with Christ. I can hear the spirit of this in Paul’s words….
I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ.
If we will lean into our lives (wrestle, if you like) with the understanding that it is ultimately with God with whom are wrestling (Heb 4:13) and that in Him, we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28), we will eventually discover that all the give and take, all the pressures of life (from wherever they come) are a part of our prolonged struggle as well as our unprecedented opportunity. I am persuaded that for those of us who persevere in working out our lives face- to-face with God, that He is going to restore our identities which are essential in the fulfilling our destinies.
I don’t think of brokenness in the same light as I once did. It has definitely been a part of me and I think it remains within me to a degree. (perhaps similar to Jacob’s limp). I do think the brokenness that comes from the cross, changes the heart’s orientation to God. While character reform is surely a byproduct of the path God has us on, I am confident His higher objective is simply to reveal to us His own affection and provision.
Father, help us to see how enjoined and inseparable our lives are with Yours. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.