I don’t know if anyone can relate to this…but here goes…
Several years ago, I was going through a severe personal crisis…one of identity…one of fear…one in which I had to face some hard realities…face the truth…and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with on a personal level. My station in life was much the same as it is now…husband, father, pastor, teacher, etc…but I was so lost inside…I felt so alone. Then some things happened that were very difficult to deal with…things relating to my ministry…things that kept me up all night on many occasions. As I faced these things, I felt very much like a victim…like people were being mean to me…like I was being persecuted…like I couldn’t catch a break…I had begun taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications as well…yet they didn’t really help. In truth I was so medicated that I virtually missed a couple years of my life…as all of these feelings and the heaviness of my heart converged into a cataclysmic quaking in my soul. It shook the very foundations of whom I was…making me question life…despairing of it…truly wishing I would just go to bed one night and wake up in Heaven. I never had feelings of “ending it all” myself, but the thought of it being over was definitely appealing.
One day while dealing with this, I was outside working in the yard…something to busy myself…something to work off some nervous energy….and I began to try to objectively evaluate my heart. I began to pray…”God, show me the realities of my heart…show me the truth about myself.” That prayer proved to be much more demanding on my heart than I could have ever anticipated. Immediately what came to mind was the passage in Genesis (chapter 32) where Jacob was going to meet up with his twin brother, Esau, that he hadn’t seen in a very long time…not since he had swindled him out of his birthright. Esau was a hunter…a man’s man…perhaps someone not to be trifled with…and Jacob hadn’t faced Esau and owned up to what he had done. The night before the meeting…Jacob was restless…and the Bible says, “Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his 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 has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (vv. 24-28) This is a story of Jacob wrestling with God. It’s a very strange story, but beautiful in its meaning…because he had a moment in which he had to face something…something about himself. The name “Jacob” means “supplanter” or in more understandable terms…it means “trickster.” His identity was that of someone who was a shyster…a liar…a cheat…
All of a sudden…I realized the real truth of that passage…I realized what had happened with Jacob. He was going into a situation that was pivotal in his life…and he had some baggage…he had baggage that was of his own doing….baggage in which he was not the victim but the perpetrator. He had to face himself…and when wrestling with God…God asked him whom he was…”Tell me what you are,” God said…”Tell me about the real you…down in your soul…the place you don’t want anyone else to know about…tell it to yourself…admit it…face it…let’s deal with it.” I don’t know if God asked him this question more than once, but they wrestled ALL night long…that’s a long time in struggle. I think perhaps this was ongoing questioning through the wrestling…that God was doing something very hard for Jacob to handle…making him face himself…
Now the reason God did this was not so that Jacob would feel bad…not so he would feel condemned…or depressed…or worthless. He did it because until we have faced what we are and what we have been, we cannot begin a new chapter…we cannot move on…because we see no need to do so. In facing this reality, Jacob felt pain…a lot of it…and possibly he walked with a limp for the rest of his life…with every step he took causing him a little twinge of pain…that reminded him of what had happened…and moreover…reminded him that his identity changed that night…and he received a new name: Israel. That name meant, “strives with God,” or, “wrestles with God,” or maybe even, “stands with God.” No matter the specific meaning, it involves a life changed through a relationship with God…and the old man is gone…left by the riverside that night…in the past.
As I thought about this…I asked God, “Who am I?” He showed me the depths of my darkness…and I faced what I had really been: a manipulator…a liar…a cheat…a real jackass. I had been running from it…not wanting to take responsibility for my problems…after all…this is America…nothing is my fault…it’s everyone else’s…I’m a victim. I didn’t like what I was realizing…and I began to wrestle…to try to win this struggle…to find a way in which I wasn’t to blame…to not have to face my true self…and why didn’t I want to? Because it really hurt. It hurt my pride…my soul…my heart…and making all of my problems everyone else’s fault felt SO much better.
I began that day to face reality…to accept responsibility…and to let it hurt…and that pain was so intense in my soul that I didn’t think I would survive…it was exhausting…draining…devouring…and humiliating.
But then…once the bandage had been ripped off…exposing the festering sore in the core of my being…healing began…and I felt the healing balm of the Lamb’s Blood being applied…and He told me something I’ve held on to ever since…
I am a new person in Him…because I left the old man in the yard that night…and sometimes I feel the twinge in my soul…the pain of that day…especially when I’m in that spot in my yard…and it makes me smile…because that twinge of pain reminds me of the death of that man…that beast…that monster…and moreover…of the birth of the new man…which stands innocent because of the Blood and alive because of the empty tomb.
Thank You for the pain, God…for that day…for that struggle…for changing my identity…and for the many changes yet to come. Thank You for coming to me when I would not come to You. I love You…but You love me more.