I’ve been reading through the Bible this year at my own pace, which is quite slow. There is quite a bit of head scratching in the Bible, and lots of it happening in Genesis. I’ve (mostly) made peace with the fact that I don’t have to understand or rationalize it all, but that doesn’t stop me from trying in the moment. Does that happen to you? Or is it just me?
I’m far enough into Genesis to be reading Jacob’s story. It’s a real page turner. A real puzzling page turner. As I read, I believe that Jacob is supposed to be a good guy, he’s the hero in these chapters.
But he’s not. He’s just really not. That’s an epiphany I’m sure people who grew up in the church had long ago. For me, today, it’s a comforting revelation. If my story were written out in the Bible from a bird’s eye view, I wouldn’t look like the hero either. You’d be puzzled and shaking your head just as I do reading about Jacob.
When I look at Jacob’s story without trying to make him a hero, it’s enlightening. God uses Jacob despite his character flaws (lies to his own father, runs away from his father in law, sleeps with any woman thrown at him). God has a plan for Jacob that happens despite how many struggles he faces on the way (brother wants to kill him, father-in-law cheats him, wife is barren). Finally, God blesses Jacob even after he wrestles against him (wants to do things his way, through his own strength and wisdom, possibly wants to run away from what God wants to pull him through).
If I look at my own journey, I certainly can see those similarities. God has used me and is still with me despite all of my many character flaws (prideful, overambitious, impatient). Even though I might look back and see a path littered with struggle and shame (drugs, sex and rock n roll, etc), God has still gotten me to this very point in my life, this plan he’s always had for me. Most incredibly, God is still blessing me, still with me, as I struggle and wrestle against Him even daily.
Jacob’s new name becomes Israel, which means “struggles with/wrestles with God.” Clearly, the struggle is real and the struggle is preordained.
The scripture that most struck me today was:
I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! -Gen 32:10
I thought about all I’ve done and been through. Literally, the only thing that has pulled me out of some of my darkest moments was that unfailing love. The comfort of unfailing love. Even when I’ve made bad choices or done wrong, God has been faithful.
Then I think about when I left home. I, too, owned nothing other than a lot of mental baggage and a lot of ambition. But I left home a broken little girl who had no idea how to show up in the world, how to love and accept to love. I didn’t even know how to feed myself properly! I had no meaningful, deep relationships. I had no roots. I couldn’t wait to be on my way!
It struck me as I looked at the parallel to Jacob’s journey.
Now, I have a marriage about which all I can say is Only God. It’s far from perfect, and we’re still working. But considering the examples we both had, it’s pretty incredible. I left home with a terrible attitude toward men and false expectations about them. Now, I am well loved and cared for, I have a partner and teammate and provider. I wouldn’t have even been able to accept that as the girl who left home.
In fact, that has been part of my continued wrestling with God. I can see now that God was leading me here even from the first step out the door. Becoming the woman I am today is something I have fought, wrestled against for…as long as I remember.
For example, I’d always planned to stay in the military for 20 years. God had other plans. Experiencing the pain of separation just a month after being married and faced with it again, I suddenly knew I couldn’t be without my family once I had a family. A miscarriage illuminated that. God also gave me a husband I would slowly learn to trust and rely on. The really, really painful kind of slowly.
Then, once I was working in the civilian world and became pregnant again, I just knew I couldn’t bear to leave him. So, I became the thing I’d sworn I’d never become: a stay at home mom. It’s funny now to read and write that thought. It was not then. It was gut wrenching. I couldn’t understand how I could feel pulled in two different directions so vehemently. Now I know it was like that night Jacob had. I was wrestling with God.
I wish I could say it stopped then. Or that it stopped…ever. It hasn’t. And that’s just one part of the struggle. That’s just one thing I wrestle with!
However, being aware of that struggle was the first step. Then being able to lean more into being obedient IN SPITE OF the way I felt helped. And knowing Jacob wrestled also helps. Because, in the end, Jacob got the blessing.
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” -Gen 32:26
I also now have a household full of three kiddos who love me unconditionally, who bring me joy and who give me purpose. (That sentence, read to 18-year-old me, would probably made me vomit.) I left home never having even babysat another child! Never having even been around other children for any length of time, except those I saw at school.
Now I have some wonderful relationships in my life, I have a relationship with God. I have joy and peace. So, it might not fill two camps, but it feels so much larger than what I left with. So much more full and overflowing.
And it’s all because of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. It’s pretty crazy to think about how far I’ve come since I left home and try to see the parallels from Jacob’s journey.
- In what ways do you wrestle with God?
- How has God demonstrated faithfulness in your life?
- How has God blessed you since you left home?