Genesis 32:13 – 34:31 Matthew 11:7-30 Psalm 14:1-7 Proverbs 3:19-20
Today’s reading in Genesis has special meaning for me and for all of us. I have been Jacob on the other side of the Jabbok, all alone and in a dark place. I had taken a job in Nebraska at a large Lutheran church. I was full of myself and had gone ahead of God, much like Jacob.
Jacob finds himself in trouble this night alone because he had failed to seek God in the decisions he made. I too made this decision to head north to seek “fame and fortune” without seeking God’s will.
I was a youth pastor, and was having great success, and assumed I didn’t need God to bless me, I was doing okay on my own. I thought I had outgrown this little church and needed bigger and better things. I placed my resume online and much to surprise and delight I started receiving inquiries from all over the country. We decided to visit Bethany because it was close to my grandparents in Illinois and it had four distinct seasons, which was important to me at the time.
On our visit to the church, neither they nor I asked hard questions and neither of us sought God’s discernment as we both “wanted” the other. They were offering more money, more prestige, more responsibility and ultimately more EGO. I didn’t ask the hard theological questions; how do you feel about abortion? The Bible? Homosexuality? Marriage? The incarnation? I chose to follow the path that appeared to offer the most for me, much like Jacob.
But like Jacob, I found myself alone and in scared for the future:
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 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. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
I was there for less than one year and was forced to confront the fact that I had made a grave mistake and needed to leave. But where? I had no plan and had a family to worry about. I talked with the leaders and told them of my desire to leave, but was guilty about it not working out. I will never forget the meeting I had with the leaders in the room they called, “The Luther Room”, it was filled with warring emotions and agendas. I expressed my desire to stay three more months to finish my work. Tears were shed by many as I left that night and promises were made about my financial future, but alas they would not be fulfilled.
As I faced the stark truth in the months to come, I was forced to face myself. I was left without a job, a home I couldn’t afford in place I didn’t want to be. Even my family was forced to leave as my mood became dark and brooding. As I faced my mistakes I was able to piece things back together and the more I humbled myself the more God blessed me.
Eventually, I sold the house, moved to Midland, Texas and began again in the ministry. As I was going through this Jacob like struggle I grew as I felt pain, anger, and sadness. My hip may not have been broken, but my willingness to depend only on myself was. No man is ready to lead until he has been broken and repaired and though he may walk with a limp, he is a man worthy of God’s Blessings.
What do you think? Until next time, peace.
Tyndale. The One Year Bible NIV (OYB: Full Size) (Kindle Locations 1511-1512). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.