Maybe that’s why my favorite picture in my first real Bible as a child was one of Jacob wrestling with God. And maybe it’s why I so easily accepted the idea of a Christophany…the appearance of Jesus in the flesh before his birth to the Virgin told in the New Testament. I have loved the idea that Jesus meets me in my place of struggle and wrestles with me. I love that the word for wrestle also has it’s meaning in DUST.(Often when you read verses where dust is kicked up in a struggle it is the same word as the writer of Genesis chose for Jacob’s wrestling in Genesis 32.)
And the good Lord knows, I can kick up some dust!
Then this week I happened across this passage again…
Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won.
He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.
There at Bethel he met God face to face,
and God spoke to him
the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
the Lord is his name!
So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him. (Hosea 12:4-6 NLT)
Jacob didn’t just put on his funky high school wrestling uniform (come on…those uniforms are awkward!) and meet Jesus in some drawn up circle to practice feats of strength. Jacob cried. Jacob begged. Jacob wanted not only to stop being the supplanter ..the claim jumper ..the thief ..the cheat. Jacob wanted to stop being afraid and to believe in the calling on his life. This was not about showing off his muscles. This was about identity. This was about new names and fresh blessings.
When I think about my own wrestling, I am grateful for it. I am no longer proud but humbled by the necessity of the struggle. For I too needed to struggle with the Man of God about identity, new names, and fresh blessings.
For centuries the church has been firm in it’s authority model for men and women. Just Google “submission umbrella”, go to images, and you should quickly find a picture of the basic principle that the church has been teaching for generations. And each time a girl-child young lady, woman, or crone was brave enough to say:
“What about Deborah the judge and leader of God’s people?”
“What about Phoebe the Deacon?”
“What about Priscilla the Teacher (and my vote for writer of the book of Hebrews)?”
“What about Mary the first evangelist ”
or less frequently (sadly)
“What about Junia the Apostle?”
the church has shut down that train of thought with the argument that when there wasn’t a man around God would sometimes use a woman. As if God in His might would have to go to His second string (women) because his first string (men) didn’t show up.
<insert eye roll, tsk tsk sound, and heavy sigh here at the lack of faith in our great big God!>
So I grew up believing myself to be a claim jumper. A supplanter. Despite knowing without a doubt that I have a call on my life from God and a gifting for teaching, leading, prophecy, encouragement and spiritual formation…I have bought into the lies that claiming these gifts is somehow an act of supplanting the birthright of men. If I accept and display the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, then somehow someone else’s gifts must take a back seat. Specifically that I am a thief and God’s second string, who will take some mans opportunity to lead away from him and he might never find the fullness of his calling.
In response, I have wrestled. You can rest assured and receive this testimony…Jesus has not gone easy on me because I am a “girl”.
I have said “Bless me or I’ll have to leave your church.” I have cried out with a wail of “WHY!?!?” I have begged to be released of these gifts because others called my gifting sinful, promised my exclusion from ‘the group’, and when feeling generous considered me generally distasteful.I have pleaded to be blessed by Him, with whom I’ve struggled, and to be free of my fear, to stand in my truth, and to know without doubt that God is still God and I am who God says I am.
And the cloud of dust kicked up…
Like Jacob, the hand of the Wrestler has touched me and I’m broken. And it is in my brokenness that I am able to lay down the label of supplanter and to rise up, covered in dust, face streaked with tears and mud, and without shame claim my place. Free of that fear. Sure of my truth. Fully standing in the identity given to me by the One who gives out identities.
As the NKJV version of the Hosea passage says…I have, by the help of my God, returned and will observe the mercy (hesed) of God, show justice, and wait on God continually for…
“I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.” (Gen. 32:30)