I took my ragged self to bed and slept. It was the kind of sleep I imagine Jacob enjoyed while wrestling with God all night.
Genesis 32 tells us that Jacob put his lonely, scared, selfish self to bed under the stars (so weary that he didn’t care his pillow was a stone) only to find himself wide awake and desperately grappling for his life throughout the long night.
And when the morning sun broke across the sky, Jacob found himself face to face with an opponent whose sweat and breath and purpose were mingled with his own. And God finally spoke, “Your name will now be Israel, because you have striven with God and men, and you have prevailed.”
And then God blessed him. Not with an oasis in the wilderness; not with a ministering angel carrying a feather pillow, or a Good Samaritan with Epsom salts and a hearty breakfast. God didn’t even bless Jacob with an explanation of what had just happened to him in the dead of night! No, God blessed Jacob with 1) his presence, and 2) a limp.
Take a minute with me to be stunned that we have a God willing to come down, take on our flesh, mingle his own divine breath, effort, and passion with ours, restrain his power and might, and engage in every human way with those he loves as his own.
Perhaps it’s the wrestling in the dark of night where we get to see God face to face? Perhaps this is the real blessing? Perhaps it’s worth the blessing of a limp so that we never forget our new name?
This morning, after a night spent grappling with God, I did not wake to more pleasant circumstances. But I found myself wide awake to God’s nearness, his lovingkindness, and the truth that my limp is far from a curse. It is my blessing.
“Your name is now Christian,” God spoke at my baptism (and speaks every morning if I have ears to hear). “Not because you have prevailed; not because you have striven very well with God and before men, but because my beloved Son already has. Welcome into the joy and purpose for which I made you.”
And as I look at my newly acquired limp, even though I am still weary – even though I am still woefully ragged and frayed – I knew I’ve also been blessed.
Where are you limping? What is it that you wish healed or restored? What shame, regret, or suffering causes you to desperately wrestle with God the most?
Know this: The difficult thing that causes you to limp through this life is not a punishment from an angry or disappointed Father. God is not your opponent, in that he wants to overcome you; teach you a lesson; rub your nose in the dirt until you beg for mercy.
God’s property is always to have mercy. This means that what causes us to wrestle – what results in a limp – is also a means of his mercy. Can we see it that way? Or do we see all that might cause us strain and suffering as the enemy?
Your limp is your reminder that your blessing is secure: You are fastened to God through Christ and all will be well in the fullness of time. God will restore your body and soul to rights; the earth will look and feel like heaven, and everything in our world will be healed and whole.
But today, even as you limp along, who will you trust? This morning, even though you long to be rid of your obvious limp, who will you cling to?
It is not our nature to welcome what would cause us (or our loved ones) to limp even a little. But we have been given a new nature! At our baptism, God spoke and said, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased! My spirit is upon her, and she is marked as my own forever!”
Jesus did not despise those who limped. And in his face, we see the very nature of God. And it is this same Jesus who comes to us; who grapples with us where we are, so we might be more awake, more alive, and more responsive to his kind of love.
Christ’s breath, energy, passion, and even his body is now mingled with our own bodies and souls. Will we strive with him – hold fast to him in this life – even if it means we might limp through the remainder of our days?
If you are wrestling today, cling to Jesus. Refuse to let him go until he blesses you in whatever way he sees fit, even if it means you might walk with him in this life with a limp. This is his mercy.
And if you are sorely limping, fix your eyes on Jesus. Look him full in his wonderful face. Go where he goes, and bless this world in whatever unique way he asks of you. You are not alone – this is his promise.
Peace to you, because you share in the breath, body, and joy of Christ, now and forever.
This is your blessing!
*Image: Ben Millard Photography