I’ve had a series of conversations with people over the past days about the old testament story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Each conversation has happened in a different context with each person – but I so enjoy when these themes come up.

Last night, in the midst of yet another conversation on the topic, I pulled out my Harper-Collins Study Bible and we read the passage together. Its a story that I’ve known since childhood, so I’ve not read it in a long time. Its a story that is only seven sentences and yet has carried a powerful message down through the centuries.

Jacob sends his family across the river and he is left alone. A man wrestles with him til dawn. Neither Jacob nor the man prevails until the man strikes Jacob’s hip? (I’ve heard it was a more tender area.) Jacob still does not let go until the man agrees to bless him. Jacob is given a new name by the man, “Israel” which means “You have striven with God and prevailed”. Jacob departs the place, limping.

Gustav Dore – Jacob wrestling with the Angel

Last night, our conversation focused on Jacob’s insistence on receiving a blessing. We talked about how we have wrestled with our spiritual lives, with our relationship with the Divine, but that no matter the outcome – it’s never occurred to us to ask for a blessing much less insist on it.

This morning, as I limped my way over to the cafe, I laughed a little, thinking about the issues I’ve wrestled with over the past year and wondering – what blessing would I even ask for?

I thought that perhaps the blessing is implicit when you hold your own in the struggle of coming to terms with the difficult issues we face in life. Perhaps the blessing is in the understanding, the peace, the certainty of your place in the world.

But, as I sat at the table, sipping hot coffee and eating my bagel – I realized that I had always assumed that Jacob wrestled with an angel (like in the picture above). But, he didn’t. This may be the only instance in the old and new testaments where God appears face-to-face as a man; not as a burning bush, not as a pillar of cloud, not as an angel – but as a man.

James Tissot – Jabob Wrestles with an Angel

I like this story – I always have. As I’ve matured from a young child to a marture woman, I continue to see it differently – and I am delighted now to think about these new aspects of it.

As a student of many different spiritual philosophies – my personal view is to see the Divine expressing itself through every thing and every one. So… when I’m feeling a little down and grumpy and I am greeted by a young child walking by who insists that I smile, say hello and laugh – well, I’m delighted not just by the human interaction, but by the belief that Source just gave me a wink to say, ‘lighten up’.

I’ve been wondering, gently, throughout the day … what blessings am I willing to insist upon as I interact with the Divine each day. And I’ve been inspired to think that each time I choose to wrestle, its not with some remote being ‘out there’, but its with me, with people who are like me, its with something known, knowable, and intimate.

From my archives ~ May 2008