Time to Wrestle!
In today’s first reading (Genesis 32:23-33) we hear the story of Jacob wrestling all night with an Angel of God. He leaves the quarrel receiving a blessing as well as a bad hip. On first read this can seem like a very odd and interesting story. In some cases it almost seems wrong of Jacob to be doing this – like on some level he is opposing God.
Let’s leave that thought for a moment and consider this:
Have you ever been talking to a friend, and within your conversation they start to talk about something which you have no idea about? Have you ever just kind of went along with it and not taken the time to tell them you do not understand what they are talking about? When we do this, instead of actually being present in the conversation, we find ourselves really just trying to cover our butts so it doesn’t look like we don’t know what we are talking about. This really strips the dignity of the conversation and the other person. Pride starts surfacing in us because we start to worry more about our perception in the conversation rather than just being present to our friend and holding a real dialogue.
Now let’s apply this to our time of prayer. How often do you come to prayer, read some passage of scripture, and have no idea of what it is saying? Do you bother asking God about it and digging in more?
Now as with every analogy we use to describe God, this one falls short, but if we project what happens when we are in conversation with a friend onto our time with God, we can see that just simply going along with things and not questioning and wrestling with what we hear does the exact opposite of glorifying Him. It doesn’t quite strip His dignity, because we can take nothing away from God, but it does lessen how we think of Him, and that can be dangerous. If we slip too far this way we can very quickly find ourselves talking to ourselves in prayer and no longer seeking God, because, well we just don’t think he is capable of speaking to us.
This places distance between us and God in the sense that we turn our focus from Him back to ourselves, and we focus on our lack of ability, rather than his ability. If we really believed that we were in a relationship and communicating with God in prayer don’t you think the appropriate thing to do would be to be bold and call out to Him and talk to Him about our lack of understanding?
If you are struggling with this, you are in good company. But the story about Jacob wrestling with the angel of God can shed light on this: that it is desired by God that we wrestle with him especially in prayer. Through this wrestling we come to a better understanding of Him, and become true believers. This type of prayer actually glorifies Him.
This boldness; our wrestling with God, is what allows for true intimacy, and true transformation in us. If we do not get to this point our faith will never be much more than something we live on the surface.