Random Blog Clay Feet: March 23, 2009
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Wrestling With God

I am starting to understand better what was really going on in Jacob's wrestling match with the angel of God. As I ponder the crucial point of transition from spending all of his efforts wrestling against the angel to clinging to the angel, it becomes clear as I relate it to my own experience what needs to take place in my perceptions of how to relate to God.

Jacob had spent his whole life in conflict. Even though he had deep urges to be connected with God, he had been operating under many of the same false assumptions about how to be connected with God as most of us have. He thought that he had to work hard at figuring out how to get what was needed for spiritual success and so when things looked dangerously impossible he always resorted to coming up with whatever it took to move forward. But this meant that he often resorted to using methods and paradigms supplied from the counterfeit system of beliefs about God and the results of those choices always ended up making things worse for his life.

I have been learning that living a righteous life can never be accomplished by figuring out all the right things to do, all the wrong things to avoid doing and then asking God for extra strength, wisdom and ability so I can then perform all those requirements. That is the way that seems right to men, but the end of that way is always death. This is because it is all based on the wrong foundation of fear for motivation instead of reactive love and devotion to a God who is so kind and generous and full of blessing that I just can't help but want to serve Him.

Basing our lives on fear is always a bad idea. And as I look carefully at this wrestling event in Jacob's experience that has been held up as the most important turning point in his whole life, I see that it was at this point that God was able to get Jacob to move past his fear-based relationship with Him to a love-bonded relationship with Him. Instead of fighting against God as he had been inadvertently doing for much of his life, Jacob suddenly switched over to living from his heart fully and threw himself totally on the mercy of God in complete dependence on God's desire to love him, to save him and to do whatever He wanted in Jacob's life.

But from Jacob's side, this did not mean that Jacob relaxed in his wrestling. No, not at all. In fact, if anything he struggled and wrestled even more intensely. But from this point on instead of fighting against the love that God had wanted to bless him with all of his life, he now used all of his remaining energy, both physically and emotionally to cling for dear life to the only One worth clinging to. Instead of clinging to his own efforts to get himself good enough for God or to maneuver himself into a place of favor with God, he now chose to intensely trust in God's heart to accomplish this goal and to stop trying to make things work out through his own efforts and ideas.

Jacob's heart had longed for nearly all of his life for the deep satisfaction that only a real blessing could bring. I can identify very strongly with that feeling. Everyone of us is designed to crave most deeply for a blessing that will impart a sense of worth and value, that will bestow on our deepest soul a strong sense of identity and purpose and most of all to satisfy our deepest need for “joy” which is the keen awareness that someone loves us intensely and is always very glad to be close to us. This is what Jacob had been seeking to satisfy for all of his life but in all the wrong ways.

He had tried to satisfy these deep and legitimate cravings by being a good boy growing up. He had tried to get this most needed blessing by stealing it twice from his brother but with very tragic results. He had resorted to deception and manipulation in many circumstances but to little avail. He had tried to find it in love with a woman but even that backfired terribly as he became the victim of his father-in-law's deceptions and jealousy and ended up with four women. It seemed that no matter how he tried to satisfy these deepest cravings of his heart that everything he did only left him feeling a little more hungry than before. By the time he found himself facing the negative consequences of nearly all of his vain attempts to make himself feel valuable all coming together at once, he still felt completely empty and fearful and helpless. He was a rich man according to the measurements of this world, a man who had multiple lovers, many children and everything that is supposed to make one happy. But instead of feeling fulfilled he felt hopeless, depressed and so full of terror that he was at the end of his rope for figuring out any more ideas of how to satisfy the deepest longings of his soul.

At this point in his life his most intense desires to feel loved and valued far surpassed the terror and dangers that tried to rivet his attention as strong as those were. He realized that his whole family's existence was in jeopardy because of his bungled attempts to get right with God in his past and so he found himself in an all night prayer vigil seeking to connect with the God that had seemed to evade his desperate search for most of his life. Yes, God had appeared to him before to encourage him, but that had not brought him into the deep, satisfying relationship with God that he so wanted to know. He still had not learned how to live in a peaceful state of joy and rest in the arms of his God. He had continued to try to work things out himself and now it seemed that his number was up with his brother coming to attack him.

So in this state of mind, when God himself approached Jacob to give him the very blessing that he so longed to receive, Jacob's life of living first from fear caused him to fight against the very thing that he wanted the most – a hug from his Creator and Redeemer and God. The very time he could have spent soaking in the arms of His Savior he spent trying to fight off and to resist Him instead. How sad that he wasted nearly the whole night resisting the very love and assurance and joy that he was looking for so intently. Because of the lies about God that had distorted his thinking all of his life, he almost totally missed the very opportunity that he had been craving for all of his life.

But fortunately he did not completely miss it altogether. Before it was all done, through the final moments of overwhelming pain searing in his body he came to be aware of the real identity of the one whom he was resisting and his heart leapt into action and he latched on to the only hope worth clinging to. His heart had yearned for a sense of blessing from a Father for all of his life and his hunger for this was so intense that even the excruciating pain of a dislocated hip could not stop him from changing from all-out resistance to all-out clinging dependence. The intense pain only exemplified the even deeper pain that he felt in his heart, longing for the sense of blessing, worth and love that he needed to know to be a real man.

At this point Jacob broke away from his habits of living by fear and plunged into living a life of clinging to love. God had come to him and amplified his fears to the breaking point so that Jacob could see that this method could never supply the deepest needs of his heart. Fear always seems so logical and sensible and natural, but it will always lead us down the wrong path in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Our hearts were not designed for fear but for love and it is not until we reject the suggestions of fear and cling to the unfamiliar but only true source of life in trusting God's heart that any of us will ever be able to receive the blessing that we must have in order to experience fulfillment and peace.

I know that I need to have this experience in my own life. I sometimes sense the intensity of my own heart's cravings for that blessing which I never received from my earthly father. As a result I have lived in a lot of dysfunction in my relationships with others and have had very confused ideas of how to live in relationship with God. God has taught me a great deal of truth about these things over the past few years for which I am eternally grateful. But I also realize that I still don't have that deep sense of value and assurance that was kept from me by the very ones who were supposed to impart it to me when I was young. As a result I can really identify with Jacob and his many attempts to find love in all the wrong ways.

In my study of the Scriptures I realize that God's people are destined to go through a time in the near future called “the time of Jacob's trouble”. But what began to dawn on me a few years ago was that instead of being a time to be terrorized about – as the way this was usually taught, this is going to be the time when we more fully receive that deep sense of blessing and connection with our God that we have been longing for all of our lives.

That is not to say that it will not be terribly painful. That is clear from Jacob's experience. But the fear of pain must be surpassed by our craving and desires for the heart blessing of our Father that forces past every obstacle that tries to keep us from that blessing. I can see that possibly the greatest obstacle that will become evident may be my own mind wrestling against the very channels through which God is seeking to impart His blessing to me. And this is something I need to start learning now, not just in that day when I are forced into this situation.

The reason that these stories are given to us in the Bible is so that we can relate differently to God now based on seeing the mistakes of others in the past. I don't have to try all the wrong ways of connecting with God like Jacob did because I can see from his experience what not to do before I try it myself. The same is true of all the other Bible characters who tried all the wrong ways of figuring out life. We have the advantage of the whole history of the world behind us so that we can learn and take better choices and have better outcomes based on their mistakes and successes.