February 14, 2011

A New Name, and a Limp

Genesis 32:27-31

The sun rose above him … and he was limping because of his hip.
Genesis 32:31


Later the facts came out: God was involved in that fight with Jacob. As Jacob put it, “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” But why would God fight with Jacob at a time when he was desperate and afraid?

It seems that here God reached out to Jacob in the only way Jacob would understand—by struggling. Virtually every major relationship in his life was marked with conflict. From the jostling inside his mother’s womb (Genesis 25:22) to his rivalry with Esau as a young man (25:27-34; 27:1-45), to his struggles with Laban over his daughters and his business dealings (29:15-30; 30:25-31:55), and back to Jacob’s fears about meeting Esau again (32:1-23), Jacob struggled with everyone, it seemed. And he usually got the upper hand—until he finally fought the one Wrestler he couldn’t outmaneuver.

By the time the sun came up that morning, Jacob had a new identity marked by a new name. And he was limping. He would never be the same again.

Jacob was now forced to slow down. But his injuries were also somehow a part of his healing. A few hours later he would be weeping on his estranged brother’s shoulder. Tears of grief mixed with tears of grace. Reconciliation. Renewal. Peace.

It was about time.

God, slow us down enough to learn and grow in the way you want us to. Make us weaker if that will make us stronger in you. Amen.

About the author — Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell recently became the senior pastor of New Life Church in New Lenox, Illinois. He has been a pastor for 22 years, serving as a church planter for the previous 12 years at The Gathering in Sacramento, California, and before that as a pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron and his wife, Deb, have three sons: John, Adam, and Jake. Ron shares more of his reflections on “squinting” for God in his blog at www.squintforgod.com.

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