Friday, January 18, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 12: Genesis 31-33; Psalm 11; Matthew 11



Resting in God: wrestling, travailing, yoking? Just yoking....

Jacob leaves Laban, taking his wives, his servants, his children, his flocks and all the good he has accumulated during his years of indentured service to his uncle. He has prospered, despite his uncle's best efforts to swindle and cheat him into a prolonged dependency. To top that, his wives (resenting their father's profligacy and abuse) have taken Laban's household gods. Laban pursues Jacob while Jacob is going back to the place and people of his youth...and to the enmity of his brother, Esau (whom Jacob presumes is still desirous of killing him for Jacob's theft of his birthright and their father's blessing.) I can't imagine being Jacob in that moment. He really is caught between a rock and a hard place. What to do?

Something we all should emulate...he moves forward in faith, trusting (really, demanding) that God be faithful and with him in his distress. How many times in life do we find ourselves in tough places like this one that Jacob finds himself? Perhaps not to the same magnitude, but often enough we wind up caught up, caught out or caught in a tangled mess...

And Jacob, in faith and with a dogged certainty that if he holds on that he will prevail, continues to move forward in faith. Even when he is wrestling with that mysterious stranger by the river, Jabbok, we see that determination in evidence. The man, in the translation I am reading, grabs his thigh and tears the muscle from the tendon in an attempt to free himself from Jacob's clutches. I can't imagine that kind of pain, and yet Jacob holds on...and gets a new name for himself and his descendants: Israel, the one who struggles with God.

Too often, when times are tough and the struggle takes it out of us, we forget to hold on to God with that kind of determination. Yet Jesus, in assuring the imprisoned and condemned John of the answer "...or are we to wait for another..." tells the disciples to tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the unclean are cleansed, and the dead are raised. Have faith, and hold on...

Jesus reminds us that even when times are tough, when conflict and struggle-labor and travail, threaten to overwhelm us, that God is with us...even when things feel out of joint (literally of figuratively), we have a companion on the way. The old British WWII poster campaign, "Keep Calm and Carry On" comes to mind, less for its advice to exhibit sange froid (cold blood, or a stiff upper lip) in the face of crisis, but to keep our determination to persist, even if it means a slight limp or kink in our footsteps in the future...

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