A Limp for a Lifetime

I think it was with Jesus. I think Jacob spent all night in toe-to-toe, hand-to-hand combat with the pre-incarnate manifestation of the the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God (Gen. 32:24).

That the King of heaven had determined to go easy on this mere man is evident. How else could the One who made all things still find Himself in a hammerlock after an all night wrestling match with one of His creation? How is it possible that “He could not defeat him” (32:25)?

But morning had dawned and it was time for this mere mortal to see the light.

But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
“Jacob!” he replied.
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” He said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”

(Genesis 32:26b-28 CSB)

“Okay, it’s time to get real,” says the Christ who was willing to get up close and personal with this image-bearer. “Time to come clean. Time to own who you are. So tell Me, what’s your name?”

“I am the deceiver,” confesses Christ’s wrestling partner. “Always have been, always will be. Unless You intervene. Unless You make me a new creation. Unless you give me a new name. Unless You bless me, I will never be anything more than Jacob.”

And intervene Jesus does. A new name. A new identity. A new beginning. “Old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2Cor. 5:17).

Happy ending, right? Sunshine and roses you’d think. But the new identity came with lifelong injury.

When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip as they wrestled and dislocated his hip socket.

(Genesis 32:25 CSB)

A limp for a lifetime, that’s the price Jacob paid for struggling with God and “prevailing.” A weakness wherever he went, that’s what he walked away with after having “seen God face to face” (32:30). A future-altering encounter of the divine kind experienced, the holiness of God’s presence survived, and yet he’s humbled forever. Self-sufficiency left on the mat for the prize of being sanctified. Jacob would walk with God, but he would walk with difficulty. Being hobbled came with being set apart for God’s purposes.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m okay struggling with God but I really want it to result in me walking away whole. I want the victory without any vestiges of a battle. I want the crown with little or no evidence of collateral damage. But as I chew on Jacob’s all-nighter, it seems that’s not the way “face to face” encounters with God turn out.

Jacob wrestled with the pre-incarnate Christ in the desert for a night and ended up with a limp for a lifetime. Paul was tutored one-on-one by the risen Christ in paradise and walked away with a thorn in the flesh (2Cor. 12:1-7). I’m thinking the reason it turned out that way for both of them, and the reminder as it turns out for me, is the same.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2Corinthians 12:9-10 CSB)

A limp for a lifetime. Who knew that was the prize for prevailing?

By His grace. For His glory.

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