In the mindset of the ancient Hebrews, God/YHWH was not really meant to be understood. Instead, this God was meant to be experienced.
So, are you Experienced???
Sorry, but I can't resist...
Genesis 25:19 - 33:20 "The Story of Jacob"
"...So Jacob was left alone, and a "man" wrestled with him till daybreak. When the "man" saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the "man." Then the "man" said "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go until you bless me." The "man" asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip" Gen. 32:22-31
And so Israel limped until the day he died.
Normally, the dude from the bible that I most identify with is Elijah. However, for a few weeks now, I have been fascinated with the story of Jacob, because in some ways it mirrors my own...at least in so far as that we both were/have been struggling with God but didn't really realize it at the time.
Jacob's story is one that could be talked or preached about for months. There are all sorts of issues in it that mirrors much of the normal human condition. The first thing that I find interesting is Jacob's name. It means "Cheater" or "Deceiver." Can you imagine parent's giving their child a name like that? (Could be worse. The two women that Jake marries are named Leah = "Cow," and Rachel = "Ewe.")
Long story short, Jacob really is a deceiver. First off, he's the original "Momma's Boy," from a very dysfunctional family. He repeatedly cheats his slightly older brother out of everything he was supposed to get, lies to his father...and then runs away. And while he's running away his reward is to encounter YHWH, the God of his ancestors, who then tells him that he will be with him where ever he goes. (Just plain weird.)
Jake ends up running smack dab into an alternate reality with his new in-laws where he is now on the receiving end of deceit and being cheated...for roughly 2 decades. Finally, he runs away again, back towards the land he originally split from, only to have his in-law's posse catch up to him. At this point, this little weasel of a man finally realizes that ranching for 20 years has caused him to grow a pair...and he tells his father-in-law off. (Obviously, I'm doing the extreme cliff notes version here.)
The crescendo of the story occurs at the Jabbok River, where YHWH himself shows up to have a wrestling match with Jake when he is all by his lonesome. (I'll leave it to the biblical scholars to go into the myriad of nuance & detail to all of this.) Suffice it to say that God let's Jake feel his oats most of the way, but ultimately gives Jake a "Silly Walk" to remind him of this night forever.
Oh, did I mention that during this wrestling match, YHWH changes Jacob "The Deceiver's" name to Israel? Israel means "One who wrestles/struggles with God."
Remember at the top, where I said that God was meant to be experienced? Well, the story of Jacob is EXACTLY that.
I find it fascinating that the God of the bible actually wants to wrestle with us. I sort of grew up in standard, middle-class, American evangelicalism. We never openly said that christians would never have struggles. In fact, often it was preached that we would have hard times. But to my mind at least, there did seem to be the idea that God would be WITH us during these hard times, and not so much IN the very center of it all. To this day, I still see a lot of masks worn in churches that are meant to show that everything in that mask-wearer's life is hunky dory. Heck, if you go to one of those "Name It & Claim It" places, and they'll tell you that if you have faith, you shouldn't ever have a struggle. (Personally, I think that's pretty sick.)
I should state that wrestling with God certainly is not limited to experiencing some major tragedy or trauma. It would probably be more accurate to say that this wrestling experience occurs over a slow period of time, often over what are perceived as mundane things...but in the end turn into major character building triumphs.
I figure that the reason this wrestling experience takes so long, is that God is doing some deep work inside the very soul & psyche of a person. In Jacob's case, he needed to be confronted with the very essence of his character. The result was a complete identity change...as is evidenced by his new name.
Jacob walked in.
Israel limped out.
So I've been going through a dark time for months. It finally seems to have ended over a week ago, when God showed how faithful he had been to me even when I didn't/couldn't/wouldn't see it. In all, it gave me a new sense of purpose, hope, and fresh and deeper understanding of God that I would have missed if I had not gone through it.
The ironic part is that right as I was feeling so good, a minor unfortunate turn of events took place. "Not to worry," I told myself. I now see how God is fully in control of the situation. THEN, just when I was feeling at my utmost, God revealed a deep wound that I thought had been dealt with a long time ago. To quote the God Father; "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
I won't go into detail, but right before I hit the sack the other night, a certain someone said something to me that they absolutely should not have. I felt a sea of rage & anger well up in me in an instant. (Yeah, that's always great right before bed.)
This incident tore off a bunch of scabs that I thought had healed a long time ago. I discovered that these scabs had been oozing for a long, long time and I had never bothered to notice the stains. I really had never dealt with them in the way that I should have. And the truth is, I don't really know how to deal with them...honestly, I don't...which might just be the point.
I came out here to the cabin to do some reading, thinking and writing. There were and are some issues in my life that I know I have to deal with. I sort of figure that this was what I would be doing during this week. It would appear that God had other plans. (Picture me dressed for a boxing match, when God shows up in Samurai battle gear, complete with both long & short swords...and a spear.)
I've been at a bit of a loss as to know what to do since this revelation of my still festering wound took place. It's a good thing there are plenty of leafs that still need raking & burning.
At this point I can truly say one thing for sure; I am most thankful that God chose to reveal this fresh problem after he had clearly demonstrated his faithfulness in the other problematic area first. (I highly doubt that was an accident.) Now that I have seen his faithfulness, I do feel a bit more energy to face this new situation...because I know that he'll be in the middle of it all.
I realize that Jacob ended up having a substantial problem walking after his experience with God. I realize that some of the dumber things I have done in my life may very well have some consequences to them also. So, I do not say this lightly or flippantly, but I would rather walk with a limp and wait in anticipation for my redeemer, than to go back and not go through these various struggles with God. See, now I AM experienced...at least a little bit.
So Father, don't let me go...