Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” - Genesis 32:24-30
Have you ever regretted something you have done?
Has something ever weighed on your heart that it overwhelmed your thoughts?
This is exactly where we find the character Jacob in this scripture. Jacob is returning to the land of Canaan, his home, where he had grown up. It's the place he fled twenty years before to avoid his brother Esau who was out to kill him for stealing their father's blessing. Blessings from fathers were a traditional way to pass down inheritance to the oldest son. Jacob was not the oldest but pretended to be when his father was on his death bed. The act of betrayal against his brother Esau left only one way out and that was to run.
Often times we run from things in our life or from our past. Are you running from anything now? Jacob ran from his past. He started a family and settled down making a new life for himself in Laban. Despite the success he made, he internally was still running from the wrongs he had committed. It is in this conflictual state that Jacob decided to journey with his family back to Canaan to make peace with his brother. The weight of unease was too much for him to bear anymore. No matter what may come he had to make things right.
It is at this spot where we find Jacob who has just crossed into Canaan wrestling someone until the morning. Jacob was most likely fearful as he had been told his brother was coming to meet him with 400 men. He sent his family across the river so he could be in solitude. There's no indication originally of who Jacob is wrestling or why. The scripture indicates Jacob prevails in the match and his opponent is God. It also states Jacob asks for a blessing after the altercation which is the same thing he stole from his brother ironically.
We will never know if Jacob actually wrestled God or if it was a figurative way of Jacob working through his internal struggle with the divine. We know the turmoil and conflict Jacob was most likely enduring which may have prompted this experience. Did he actually win against God or was it he came to a new understanding of who he was, accepting the past for what it was?
Jacob just might have really saw who he was through all the facades he tried to hide behind. In this authentic experience the real Jacob prevailed over the guilt and shame of his past. He knew whatever his future holds, it would not be defined by what had happened but what he would be about from here forward. The name change is what is significant here. This name gives Jacob new meaning for who he is beyond his past convictions. It erases the shame he held for his actions.
Relevance for us Today
Each one of us has conflicts and struggles we wrestle with in our daily lives. Sometimes these are things from our past like Jacob. This scripture tells us to wrestle with those struggles with God. We must include the divine in the chaos of our lives. The scripture also asks us to really look at who we are now instead of the person we were in the past.
God wants us to wrestle with our internal feelings of shame and guilt and come to a new understanding that we are ok with. An understanding that you are who you are and that is enough. It is someone that the divine wants to see face to face. It is someone God wants to call by name and bless.
So lay down your burdens, forgive yourself, and lean into the blessings God is wanting to bestow on you.
I hope these few blogs about certain scriptures has been useful for you. If so please comment below.
This week know God is working through your struggles with you.
In November 2018 we had a post about gratitude titled "Spiritual Gratitude." It focused on the science of gratitude, how it rewires our brain, and how it enhances our spiritual life.
This week we are exploring gratitude once again because it is such an important part of happiness and spirituality.
Expressing Your Gratitude
Research has found being thankful increases our level of happiness. They have also found that expressing that gratitude with others shows even larger increases. In the video below they did a gratitude experiment with expressing their thankfulness to another person. Check it out and I encourage you to even give it a try.
The Benefits of Gratitude
The blog Daily Greatness states there are both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of gratitude. Intrinsically our perspectives can change and our senses become heightened. Extrinsically thankfulness can positively impact our social connections with others just by showing appreciation for them. It enhances our focus and allows for more openness in our communication.
Amy Morin writes about the "7 scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round." These 7 benefits highlight how being thankful positively impacts our mind, body, and spirit. Enjoy the read!
What Are You Thankful For?
So the question is who and what are you thankful for? Is it your best friend, the coffee you had this morning, your neighbor, the birds chirping, the song you are listening to on the radio, or maybe the comfy shoes you are wearing. Identifying the things in our life that we are grateful for changes our perception.
I encourage you start making a list. Maybe you can quickly come up with 25 things or maybe you can start a journal and do five each day. The key is to practice thankfulness and allow it to be a bigger and bigger part of your daily life. If you are struggling with coming up with things check out Kid President. He has a list of 25 things he is thankful for.
What characteristics do I appreciate specifically about someone else?
What in my life makes my life better?
How has someone positively impacted me in the past and present?
What in my life can I not do without?
Where do I want to spend my time doing right now?
Be thankful for whatever responses come to these questions.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all those sharing and supporting the blog.
Answer the questions above and be thankful for those things in your life.
Every year the Salina Community of Christ holds a clothing drive for three weeks helping those out in the city that need extra items. This last year they saw over 150 people come through and gave out three turkey's to families in need. One interesting situation took place this year that took those helping by surprise. There was a family in attendance whose house had just burned down. The Pastor took the family through helping them find the sizes they needed. At one point he looked up and everyone else in the room had stopped. They were all looking at the family and apparently knew of their recent situation. Some people stepped back so they had room while others began shouting out the sizes they needed. The attendees of the clothing drive searched table by table and even gave up the items they had already taken for themselves. The people provided service by searching and disregarded their own desires for the sake of others who they felt needed it more than them. This was not pity but a sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificing our own wants and desires for the benefit of something more important or worthy can be powerfully freeing. Sacrifice is an interesting and controversial issue among some groups. Let's look closer at how sacrifice can play a role in our spiritual life, what is sacrificial love, and if we should have limits of what to give.
Drum Major for Justice
Since today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., I think its imperative we take a little time to pull him into this discussion of sacrifice. Martin Luther King believed in equality for all people. It was a cause that meant so much that he was willing to take the risks of harm, jail, and even death in order to ensure those for others. The peaceful, non-violent marches raised awareness of the injustice happening in America. He believed his sacrifices and personal harm was little compared to the worthy cause of equality. There are many ways Martin Luther King lived this out in his life but maybe there was nothing more widespread as his sacrificial love for others in the belief we are "the beloved community". This spoke through his actions in attempting to end racism and give equal rights to all. For more information on Martin Luther King please read the TIME Magazine "What People Still Don't Know About Martin Luther King Jr."
Injustice still happens in our world, even surrounding some of the same issues Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and against. It is our actions as a beloved community which can eliminate injustice and show sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificial Love and Our Spiritual Life
Sacrificial love is about giving up our own selfish desires for those of others. Agape love would be another term used for it. You are making a choice to respect and honor another individual while seeking their overall well being. This type of love is of moral integrity and is at the heart of God. Our spiritual lives can thrive when we choose to love sacrificially in the situations life presents.
Check out this video by the Bible Project describing Agape love and how Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry.
If we allow our love to expand for the well being of others around us people are impacted in creative and life changing ways. Are you currently living out sacrificial love in your work and personal life? How would you be different if you choose to sacrificially love those around you?
When we seek the heart of God by sacrificially loving those around us our spiritual lives deepen. Our own personal desires suddenly become aligned with the will of God for our lives. We listen more attentively, walk more confidently, and open our eyes to the needs of others. I love this song by Jeremy Camp "Empty Me" because it speaks to opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God in our lives.
Limits and Boundaries to Sacrificial Love
Sometimes we will go out of our way to help others. We might think if we just give more and try harder it will happen. However sometimes that is not the case. Giving can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is always one-sided.
Somewhere along the way we have equated sacrificial love to giving everything for others, even if its not good for us. Sacrificial love is at the heart of God but does God want us to personally suffer from our giving? And if so how does that impact our spiritual life?
I think it comes down to us really knowing who we are and what we want. Sometimes others can take advantage of people knowing they will give if they ask. Other times people might try to shame or guilt us into actions. Sacrificial love always comes from our desire to help but it has to be our desire. If we are doing it from a position of obligation, worry, or attempt to keep a relationship than I would argue it is not sacrificial love. It seems like we need to have healthy boundaries that protect us and lead us into relationships of respect and accountability.
Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote an article on Psychology Today titled "Does Love Involve Sacrifice or Compromise" which discusses sacrifices in relationships which might be helpful for you. Chiara Mazzucco's blog "3 Toxic Signs of Sacrificial Love: Why it Doesn't Work and How to Detach" describes some of the issues of not having healthy boundaries in our life and how they impact our relationships.
Now there are some people who would argue sacrificial love is never wrong. We give and do not expect anything in return. We love without conditions and do not look back no matter what or how others treat us. What do you think?
I think its important to remember Jesus had boundaries and expectations for others especially those in power. Jesus met the needs of others but did not let others walk all over him. He peacefully and confidently handled concerns upholding the worth of others and himself.
As I stated above sacrificial love is a controversial topic however its important we think and talk about it. We each have to decide what it means for our lives and what boundaries we should have.
Questions for Discussion
When have you seen sacrificial love displayed?
When is a time you have given of yourself for another?
What injustices are happening in your community?
Should there be limits or boundaries for ourselves when we love sacrificially with others? If so what should those be?
How do you align values, lifestyle with God's will for your life?
Thank you all for following along and sharing! This week think how you sacrificially love others and what boundaries are helpful for you.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.