Wrestling for beginners:
Genesis 32: 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 men 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.”
What do you think of this? How does this reflect on our relationship with God in the 21st Century?
This is how Bono perceived it, in the song ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’.
In the locust wind
Comes a rattle and hum.
Jacob wrestled the angel
And the angel was overcome.
Ever wrestled with an angel and won? Me neither! You always come off worse don’t you? I didn’t see Jacob’s angel walk away with a limp! When I wrestle with God I’m the one who comes off worse. With this insight in mind, I’ve given up wrestling with God. In the Wilderness of Fear comes the rattle and hum, when God wants a fight. I state quite clearly that I’m not interested, but of late God has not taken any notice of my wishes and so a mauling ensues. My position on this is one of passive resistance. Sometimes it seems that God takes you out into the Wilderness to kill you. There have been rumours of this before, but usually someone with a little spiritual clout got in the way of God playing schoolyard bully or serial killer.
Until today! I’m a little fed up with the mind games of guilt, inadequacy and impotence as a reason for my lack of ‘success’. I’m jaundiced playing my role of the inadequate husband, the guy who can’t sell toffee at a toffee convention. Now to some that is a ‘red flag’ warning of misplaced allegiances, but alas that’s because people, even spiritual people, have a very worldly view of it. Success sounds like the hissing of a snake, doesn’t it? And for a good reason they conclude thus.
Notwithstanding their worldly rejection of worldly principles, what I’m talking about is fruitfulness, of cultural potency, of fulfilling a calling and vocation. What I’m left with now, is a wariness of the presence of God, waiting for the next injury so I can walk away with a limp, my inferiority proven.
Is this just me, or are there others in this BIG wide-world, who feel just the same?
The aching and longing is for something more of God along with some kind of creative cultural potency. I know what you’re thinking. “He’s not asking much of an omnipotent God!” The ideas aren’t the problem, it is getting things made and even if they are made it’s having a strategy to let the world know it’s out there. Institutions don’t help when your concerns are for a free art in the mainstream of (Western or Eastern) culture, so there’s no fallback position, no safety net.
So, with this non-wrestling future in mind, I decided I’d like to be more like Abraham, who sat at the entrance to his tent and entertained angels unawares. I even have a copy of an Andrei Rubylev Icon downstairs to remind me of what that kind of thing looks like. Hey I thought, I’d go for that. Well until a friend pointed out how elusive God was between appearances, sometimes 30 years or so would pass and even if that is an exaggeration and it was only 20 years, hey it’s still too long! Abraham was called the Friend of God. If I had a friend who only visited me every 20 years I’d be wondering how special that title was.
Dilemma! If the Jacob model doesn’t work because of the injuries and the Abraham model doesn’t work because of basic indifference, what are we left with? Now before some dispensationalist prattles on about people in those days not having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I’d like to point out that having the Holy Spirit does not give you the location of a secret (invisible, because its spiritual) dumb-waiter to heaven, where every order for pleasant things is returned by special delivery. Life in the context of this New Administration is not a guarantee to having everything our own way. Look at the Apostles, look at the early martyrs. What a miserable bunch of losers. They obviously had the wrong theology!
Now if this was the selling-point of the Good News, not many would want it. God is tricksy, difficult to pin down and if we tell people otherwise we are either lying or being selective with the truth. In this age of readymade gods, we expect instant gratification. What if God, our God, is different? What if at times, we are left holding the baby? My friend wrote this, he’s a rock star:
In the vacant silence I tried to speak, I tried to speak.
In my sheer frustration I could not sleep, I could not sleep
But you took me out to another place, when I’d taken every risk that I could
And you took me out to another way, when I thought I was completely on my own.
In my brokenness I tried to find you, I tried to hurt you,
In my emptiness I tried to wait, tried to wait
‘Another Place’, by Transition. From the album ‘Borderlands’.
This is the song of a generation, the song of someone God couldn’t shake off, despite the wrestling match going on all night. It should be played on every radio station in the world, but that’s just my opinion.
We persevere with God, not with the world. With the world we can get instant gratification, but God is different! The difficulty is that we can’t give up, because there is no One else to go to, nowhere else to go. I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish that the intimate life I have in my creativity, I had in the rest of my life. This is a deep-seated aching and longing. When will it be answered?
Here we are, weary, frustrated, broken and decidedly inadequate for the task of living. What’s next? I think it’s about time God showed up and provided things like adequacy and fruitfulness for us. The waiting for God is over. The time for God to stop investing in kitsch is over, for there are some really serious artists out there in the Wilderness, all waiting for release on an unsuspecting world. Surely lessons are over and it’s playtime?