Wrestling With God
By Beth Demme
Sometimes I hold on too tightly to God. To be more precise, I hold on too tightly to my ideas about God.
I unintentionally put God in a box.
You probably know the story of Jacob wrestling with God.
I love how Jacob’s story gives us permission to “wrestle” with God. It’s a poignant illustration of the reality that God is not detached or hands-off when it comes to his people.
It also reflects the reality of my relationship with God. Like Jacob, I wrestled with God before I understood the truth of God’s unconditional love. From time to time, I still feel like I’m wrestling with God.
Maybe, like me, you have read Jacob’s story many times. Maybe like me you missed an important detail.
God, not Jacob, ends the wrestling match by saying “Let me go.”
Jacob and God wrestle all night. As sunrise begins to peak over the horizon, God tells Jacob, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” (Genesis 32:26)
Jacob responds, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
God says, “let me go” and Jacob says, “no.”
Too often I have been guilty of limiting God to my own preconceived notions, my own easy explanations. When I try to put God in a box, I’m like Jacob, stubbornly holding on as if to say, “no God, I need you to be within my grip!”
God is always bigger than any box I try to use. The Infinite Divine is not subject to my explanations or held by my limitations.
With Jacob still holding on, God and Jacob have this conversation (my paraphrase):
God: What’s your name?
God: You know that means Deceiver, right?
Jacob: Uh-huh. I didn’t choose it, but I have certainly lived up to it.**
God: That isn’t who you are anymore. You have a new identity. From now on you will be Israel.
God: Yes. You have wrestled with God and lived to tell about it. That’s your new identity.
In response to Jacob’s refusal to let go, God doesn’t give up on Jacob or abandon him.
Instead, God commends Jacob for not giving up. God changes Jacob’s name to reflect how he held on when things got tough.
If Jacob had let go, he might have remained “The Deceiver.” Instead, his relationship with God redefined his identity and his life.
May that be the same for me. May my relationship with God be the defining aspect of my life, despite the struggle.
**Jacob is the one who (among other things), covered himself with an animal skin to trick his dying father into giving him the blessing due to Esau, his slightly older twin brother. (Genesis 27) The brothers were estranged for many years. It was on the eve of their reunion that Jacob and God wrestled.
More Like This From Beth:
- Why I Love the Fall of Humanity
- God Can Work With Anything, Even Nothing
- A Spark More Powerful than the Church