Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
Who challenged who is uncertain but Jacob and a Man wrestled until dawn. Jacob concluded that his opponent was God himself. The average wrestling match lasts less than 10 minutes. This match must have gone on for hours. Wrestling drains all a man’s strength. Living life in opposition to God does so as well.
While hIgh school wrestling has three periods, our sessions with God are innumerable. Some of them go on for years. The prolonged duration of many of our sessions is due to our forgetting that it is always with God with whom we are wrestling.
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 12:13
We strive with our bosses, our families and our circumstances, accumulating frustration, discouragement and even resentment. These inner-strivings left unresolved can metastasize and even lead to emotional and mental illness, tearing ourselves and our families to shreds. In a world where an all-knowing, all-caring, all-wise God is reigning, where all things are working together for good, where we are called to be thankful for all things, is it not clear that it is with God with whom we are actually striving? How many times have we groused, protesting the very thing God is trying to use to deliver us from our self-lives (which he knows leads to death) and in the process, fail to realize his presence and intimate involvement? (For a dramatic audio-visual depiction of our heart-wrestling match with God google the 1 minute segment of “Captain Dan and the Storm” from Forest Gump.
About this match between God and us. He knows all our moves before we make them. We know that he can end the match at any moment yet he chooses to wrestle until dawn. It makes me think that even if its a tussle, he likes living in close quarters with us, face to face, even getting soiled with our dirt and sweat. How shocked we will be when we discover that we were staring God in the face all along in those moments of protest and complaint!
While God may seem like an opponent, it is only because we don’t acknowledge his sovereignty and goodness in our affairs. Isn’t it the lie that we can live life on our own terms, in our natural wisdom and strength that God is really opposing? Isn’t he really challenging our right to rule our own kingdom. If God is to build his kingdom, he must have the beachhead of our hearts to operate from.
As we are living life, in the unseen reality of God’s economy, where redemption and reconciliation and healing are hidden in every circumstance, we need to know what hold we should use with God in the ongoing and inevitable matches to come. In light of who our opponent is and his intentions, I believe the best hold we can put on God is not a Full-Nelson, rather it is a full surrender – a dispositional hold that really consists of an acknowledgment of our desperate need for him to become our life. We perceive of God as many things – from the repairer of the moral breach to the provider of blessing (and a hundred others secondary things) while he intends to simply become our life, which is something infinitely more.
I see the kingdom of God as that seen and yet-to-be-seen domain of God where we are not just submitting to his rule by living according to his precepts. Our full surrenders make new space into which the kingdom can expand. In this space which we vacated as Lords of our own lives, Jesus begins to reign and to put things in order. Christ’s very own life begins finding expression in our deeds and even in our countenance.
God’s righteousness, peace, joy and liberty get birthed into the world via the womb of the human heart. We, his kingdom children, are animated once again (as we once were in un-fallen Adam), courtesy: (once again) the breath of God. It is (the second Adam) Christ in us, who is the hope of all kingdom glory. Our full surrenders facilitate Christ becoming our all-in-all, which is the thing that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God uses to restore things (especially us) to his original intention in Christ. Truly in our loosing we win.
Father, May we loose consecutive matches with you, sufficient in number to acquire our own limps – those keen reminders of the futility of our human strength. May we soon become exhausted in our attempts at living the Christian life in our own strength. We pray that as we realize that you live in us and that, in our circumstances, we are actually seeing you face-to-face, that we may cross the rivers before us with our new identities in Christ, joyfully living out our destinies, expanding your kingdom as we go about our lives with you and with one another. May our eyes see the sun rise on a new season of kingdom expansion. Truly Lord we are blessed that you know our names and that we know yours. May your will be done on earth, in our hearts, as it is in heaven. Amen.