Today’s Scripture reading from Genesis 32:23-33 brought to mind the sport of wrestling. I was very privileged to coach and work at a high school that had a great wrestling program. I remember walking through the small wrestling facility on my way to basketball practice. The sweat, humidity, the grunting and the fierce competition was there each day.
Jacob, who later became known as Israel, wrestled with some man until the break of dawn. That must have been extremely physical and tiring to wrestle for such a long time. Jacob must have had a great gift of competitiveness, strength, power and tolerance of pain as scripture says;
When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.
We find out a little later that Jacob was wrestling with a Divine Being. Some scripture scholars even think that the Divine Being was God Himself in some form. Jacob was the winner of this match and the passage continues;
The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
The blessing did come as the man told Jacob;
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.”
So some of the great high school wrestlers come to my mind such as the “Martin Family”, “Larry Landless” and of course, our National Champion “Anthony Valencia”. There were many more that graced our campus at Mark Keppel High School. These wrestlers worked so hard using their God-given abilities and through their dedication and successes, they helped to unify the student body and staff with the pride of the Aztecs.
In my nostalgia, I realize that like Jacob, I am wrestling today with a Divine Being. Every time I pray, in a sense, I begin a wrestling match with God. God says, “it’s best to do this” and I say, “what about this?” I wrestle with what I want versus what God wants. Sometimes I win the battle, but lose the match. I think wrestling with God is a good thing. As my losses pile up, I learn and grow. This training can be grueling and tough but it is worth it.
One of my problems with prayer is that I do not always have the passion that these great wrestlers I have mentioned had. They were tough and relentless to give their best to win. I sometimes tend to say what I think God wants to hear rather that what I really want to say. That is like being unprepared to wrestle. Jacob reminds me today to be prepared and wrestle even until the break of dawn or until the Lord “breaks” me. Then like Jacob, I win!