until you bless me
Last year, while my friends in Kingdom Living Training School were sitting around a wooden table talking about Jacob wrestling with God, I was wrestling with God. My home is on the market for the fourth time. It was a home I never intended to buy. I was pressured into the purchase by my ex-husband. It was a home that I was stuck with following the divorce because it wouldn’t sell and he couldn’t cover the payments. Eight years later, it still hadn’t sold, and it represented to me the lie that God was still punishing me for my divorce by keeping me trapped.
During this time, I got the news that another family in my house church put their home on the market, and it sold at market value in three hours. I forgot to mention that their house was in between two abandoned properties. And I forgot to mention that the investors put an offer in without even seeing the house. That was God. No doubt about it.
A few years ago, I might have tried to pretend that I wasn’t jealous. Maybe. And I wasn’t jealous of their situation. If there was anyone who deserved to not have to deal with selling a house, it’s them. Their oldest child, still a toddler, had just been diagnosed with leukemia. They were moving closer to their parents and other family because they needed the close support of loved ones. I could both rejoice in their miracle and shake my fist at God. So, I did. Both. Literally.
“Mom, you know God doesn’t live in the ceiling,” my daughter Arielle said, observing my rant. “He’s everywhere.”
“Fine then, I’ll yell at the stove.”
And my rant sounded something like this:
“God, if you were only capable of one housing miracle, I would agree with your decision. I understand that they need this move more than I do. But you’re not only capable of one miracle. You can do a billion-trillion miracles.”
And this is where Arielle added her favorite made-up math word, “Billion-trillion-gazillion,” chiming in with me.
“So, why are you being so stingy with me?” At this point, I realized that I was sounding like an overgrown toddler. But I couldn’t stop. I was word vomiting uncontrollably while devouring a bar of dark chocolate and almonds. My heart was wrestling with God while my hands were wrestling with the wrapper, and in that moment I understood Jacob and why he had to wrestle that angel.
Jacob had enough angst to wrestle with an angel all night long – even though the angel pushed his hip out of socket – even though the sun came up in the morning, and he hadn’t yet won- until the exhausted angel blessed him. I have two brothers who rumbled a lot growing up. But their worst fights still lasted well under an hour. Jacob wrestled the angel all night long. And instead of black eyes and taunts, he gets his blessing and a new name, “Israel,” which means “he struggles with God.”
Why is this the first time that I noticed that? His new name is Israel. The nation of people that God first appears to – the one that is going to bear the Messiah that will save all the world – their name means, “he struggles with God.” Why not “chosen people” or “you’ll be blessed by my promise” or “people to whom I will appear”? Why “he struggles with God”?
And what’s even more strange is that God wanted Jacob to win all along but kept wrestling him. If he didn’t, he could have gotten annoyed and zapped him with a lightning bolt, or turned him into a pillar of salt, or let someone smite him with their sword. Or the angel could have just blessed him when he first saw him. I understand why Jacob wanted to wrestle God all night. But why did God want to keep wrestling with Jacob?
Those are more questions that I can’t answer. Back to my word vomit and one question that I can answer: Arielle’s loaded question that came out of nowhere right in the middle of my adult tantrum.
“What if God’s not even there? What if he’s not even real?”
“Then who am I yelling at?!?”
And she laughed.
But it’s a fair answer. If there’s no God, then who was I yelling at? If the angel wasn’t there, then how did Jacob’s hip get out of socket? If there is no God, or if God is powerless and weak and abstract, then I have no right to be angry at Him. If all of my joys and success and my miseries and pains are a result of a randomly generated algorithm of cosmos, why feel elation or angst? I just happened to get event number 232,533,478,992.
Being angry acknowledges that there is a God – and that that God is personal enough to know it’s happening to me - and that that God is powerful enough to change my situation. In some unusual way, the unsettled angst towards God that we all at times carry in our souls is the birthing of an understanding that not only are sin and brokenness real, but so is a God who can fix them. The question then is, how can we trust a God who is able, but not always willing to fix our pain without understanding why? I may not have the answer to that one, but for me it’s a question that can’t be answered without a very long good-old-fashioned rumble.
Post by Monica Tatera (CG Midtown).