Wrestling Match

Jacob wrestling angel
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with
him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he
struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he
wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob
said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is
your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be
called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and
have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said,
“Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the
place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is
preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his
(Genesis 22:24-31)

When my boys were little, they used to take out
their mutual frustrations by rolling around on the floor with each other,
"wrestling." Two little fellows would twine into a ball of energy that reminded
me of the Tasmanian Devil in the Bugs Bunny cartoons! Around and around they
would go, but I know there was no real harm intended because the difference in
their ages and sizes would surely have meant injury for the younger if the
wrestling had been serious-minded.
Now they are young men, and when they put their
arms around each other it is in embrace. The outward expression of inner
tensions finds other means: the actor swims; the musician runs. But on some
level, like wrestlers, they measure themselves against one another. Will the
younger ever outgrow the elder? They are close in height, and in other ways,
Jacob spent the night wrestling something, not
sure with what he grappled. When the morning came and the light dawned, he
wanted to name it, to name that force and know better what he had faced, what he
had fought, what had wounded him and changed him for life.
He limped away knowing he had met God and man, God and himself. I hope I do that when I wrestle in the darkness, too, even if it leaves me marked.

(Painting by Leon Bonnat, "Jacob Wrestling the Angel")

9 thoughts on “Wrestling Match”

  1. Today I’ve been reading folks talking about the “limping” phenomenon… the idea that we walk away from our encounters with God limping and bruised, but ready for the rest of the journey. I love the parallel you draw with your sons…. lovely.
    Pax, C.

  2. Cecilia, too funny! I no sooner finished posting a comment on your Jacob post than I saw yours come in via email. Great minds…

  3. A favorite text of mine! Love this post and the pic you chose for it.

  4. That picture really plays on the twin theme of the larger Jacob arc. I like it a lot.

  5. that is an amazing painting!!! this story has always intrigued me. i’ll have to ponder it more before commenting further. thanks for posting this.

  6. Perhaps one shouldn’t say such things (that’s never stopped me before)… but isn’t the painting kind of… ahem… erotic?
    Pax, C.

  7. Oh, definitely, C. Definitely. Auto-erotic, even. I’m the person who thinks the devil tempting Jesus in movies ought to be played by the same actor, though, so I guess that proves I’m more interested in the inner struggle than the outer.

  8. On a slightly less philosophical note -manBoy and neighborfriend who has always been 2-4 inches taller and pound heavier used to wrestle in our living room when they were younger. One day I heard manBoy say “I want to win this time.” So I watched as neighborfriend laid down in the floor and manBoy jumped on him and did a couple of holds. Now that’s a friend.

  9. See, if Jacob would just bring up that right knee real quick, we’d see how angelic his opponent is…
    Always bringing the heathen point of view!

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