Discernment

Wrestling

I have been working with a group at my little UCC church to do some visioning about the future. We’re engaged in a book study of David Ray’s “The Indispensable Guide to Smaller Churches.” At the beginning of one of the chapters he has a quote from Nikos Kazantzakis’s “Report to Greco,” in which Mary brings 12-year-old Jesus to a monk to be cured of bad dreams:
Alone with the boy, Father Joachim says to him,
“Where does it hurt, my son?”
“Here, here…” he replied, pointing to his heart.
“And what’s wrong with you?”
“I can’t sleep, eat, or work, I roam the streets, wrestling.”
“Who are you wrestling with?”
“With God. Who else do you expect me to be wrestling with?”
Father Joachim keeps the boy for a month, puts him in a carpenter shop to learn the trade, speaks to him ever so gently of God as though he were a neighbor who dropped by on an evening to sit on the porch and chat. Father Joachim reports:
“At the end of a month’s time, Jesus was completely cured. He no longer wrestled with God; he had become a man like all other men. He departed for Galilee, and I learned afterwards that he has become a fine carpenter, he becomes the best in Nazareth.”
Thanks to Real Live Preacher and “Matthius” for getting me thinking about this again. I had a terrible struggle in the year I returned to seminary sorting out my theology. All that great ecumenical upbringing and my years of soulful searching had left me uncertain of where I stood on many things. For me the real conflict came in wondering two things: was I really called to parish ministry and, if I was, would I ever have any kind of a personal life? Along the way the internal argument had many outward guises. I was going to shift to a program in psychology and religion; I wanted to become a Jungian Analyst; I wasn’t so sure I was a Trinitarian Christian at all; maybe I belonged with the Unitarians! But the real wrestling for me was with God, of course. “Is God keeping you up at night?” That was the question posed on a brochure my seminary sent out to prospective students. God certainly was.
(And I’m okay with the Trinity now…)

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