Friday, February 5, 2010

Wrestle

Yesterday, Pastor Rich stopped me on my way to class to say, "I've been looking everywhere for you. I read this and thought of you." He handed me a newspaper and pointed to an article on the side. "You'll like this."

By glancing at the title, I was already appreciative. "Thanks."

Pastor Rich is a wise man. I don't mean to be stereotypical, but I'm always surprised at how open-minded and non-judgmental he is considering he's probably pushing 60 years-old. Just like a proud papa, he sits on the front row whenever a Union college student is involved and takes pictures. The last two times I've been up front, he was right there encouraging me, even saying out loud, "You got it" and "You can do it. Just say it!"

He welcomes my questions. He accepts me where I am. He's a good one.


"Wrestling with God part of the Struggle"

by Michelle DeRusha

Last month I wrote about grace and an old New Year's resolution, and in response a reader questioned what he or she called my "blind faith."

That got me thinking: why the assumption that all faith is blind faith?

Don't get me wrong, I would love to enjoy blind faith. I wish there was a fast-faith drive-thru, where I could pull up to the window and place my order: "Yes, I'd like the No. 3, the blind faith, please, with a side order of patience and good will."

As it turns out, my faith is far from blind. Raised Catholic, I abandoned religion, and God, for nearly 20 years before returning to faith at nothing short of a glacial pace. There was no road-to-Damascus conversion. No lightning bolts. No obvious miracles. The process was fraught with questioning, grappling and great doubt. In some ways, it still is.

I've come to believe, though, that God allows us to struggle, and even encourages the struggle at times.

Take the Genesis story, for example, in which Jacob literally wrestles with God on the shore of the Jabbok River. What's interesting about the story is that an omnipotent, omniscient God clearly does not need to wrestle with a mere human, yet he does. Why?

To me, this story is less about the physical conflict itself and more about the fact that God allows us to wrestle with him. God did not need to wrestle with Jacob at all; rather, God knew Jacob needed to wrestle with him.

God condones struggle, even encourages it, because our trials in this life are a catalyst for transformation. God saw that Jacob needed to struggle to transform, to shed his manipulative, deceitful self and grow in his relationship with God.

God, it seems, will not overpower our free will; he won't force us to love him. He doesn't coerce trust out of us but works through the process with us. God didn't pin Jacob to the sand or immobilize him in a headlock, but allowed the match to continue all night long. In the end, Jacob transformed on his own accord. He refused to release his grasp until God blessed him, and to symbolize Jacob's metamorphosis, God renamed him Israel (in Hebrew, Yisrael), which means "he has striven with God."

Many of the people in the Bible, including the disciples, are ordinary humans - fallible, conflicted, questioning and doubting. Few have blind faith. Yet through these ordinary people and despite their many imperfections, God accomplished great things.

I have hope and faith that my questions, doubts and struggles, my wrestling with God, are all part of the growing pains I will experience in my deepening relationship with him. The story of Jacob tells me it's OK to wrestle, and that I don't wrestle alone. I am striving with God.

From the Lincoln Journal Star

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

truth

Anonymous said...

I'm not "pushing 60" I've past it! :)
Don't forget-- you're worth it!
PR