Jacob and Us at the Jabbok
By L. Lee Whitlock
Genesis 32:26 Then he [Jacob] said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’
Jacob’s question saved my life. Saturday after Thanksgiving 1994, I faced the most extraordinary battle of my life. I was powerless. Early in my life, I became obsessed with Jacob’s Angel (G-d?)? Who believes in Angels? If they exist, why would you fight one? When I was a little boy, I wondered what I would do if I encountered an angel. I imagined that I would say, “Hello, Mr. Angel, what are you doing here?” Maturity and a theological education changed my approach, but the concept of Deity struggling never left.
On that November 5th, a friend suggested I talk with a Jesuit trained priest who lived in Washington, DC. He belonged to a chapter of a worldwide organization of which I was a member. I called him, left a message. Within half an hour, he called me. My fellowship of 22 years is like that. Members reach out quickly. I told him of my “Jacob at the Jabbok.” I ended my part of the conversation by saying, “Jacob was lucky. He walked away having received a limp and a new name, ‘Israel’. I’m still struggling. I feel like I’ve been in a bar fight my whole life. I’m beaten, bloody, bruised and battered from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I demanded of this disguised G-d, ‘I’ll not let you go unless you bless me.’” I began to cry. After a few moments of holy silence, my Jesuit brother said, “Ah, but you ought to see the other Guy!”
I got it. Grace happened. The rest of the story, the part that the redactor left out was why this Angel stayed in the struggle. I heard the Angel saying, “I’ll not let you go until you accept my blessing.” I got it. Grace happened. I accepted grace. I read where a physician said, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” We do not just accept that we will face difficult problems at any time; it also means that we have to accept that G-d is in the fight with us.
Jesus, you said, “Come unto me all you that labor, that struggle, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We heard, “Wanna fight?” You said, “I will and I will stay in the struggle as long as it takes for you to receive My blessing. I want you just as you are, without one plea. My blood has already been shed for you. In the wonderful revival hymn, we hear the refrain six times “O Lamb of G-d, I come, I come.” We feel the urgency to come to You, and we learn slowly that You will continue to struggle with You until we come and receive Your welcome, Your pardon, Your cleansing, and Your relief. You have broken every barrier down. O Lamb of G-d, we come, we come. Amen.