I used to wrestle with a friend of mine in junior high and the first part of high school, and made a habit of having my butt kicked early and often. Early on in our duels, I was about as feisty as I was unskilled, which led to some interesting wrestling matches. The object was always to be the first to force the other to say “uncle.” Typically we would get to this point using a headlock, squeezing to the point where our eyes began to feel like they were going to pop out of our skulls. I rarely won the contests, but as time went on, I learned to endure more and more, which made it increasingly difficult to get me to say “uncle” and give up.
One afternoon I was under the grip of a headlock that usually led to my defeat. On that day, my determination was on full crank. He squeezed until my face turned blue, then finally my nose began to bleed down to his arm, probably the result of a popped blood vessel. In his shock from the sight of blood, he released my neck and I immediately jumped up exclaiming my “victory.”
Of course, I didn’t really win that match, but I certainly didn’t lose. Jacob of the Bible had a similar experience in Genesis 32 when he went to the mat with an God in the middle of the night. The story says that they wrestled until God had to put Jacob’s hip out of socket in order to subdue him.
The good part comes next, as Jacob refuses to let go, even with a dislocated hip. “I will not let you go unless you bless me,” he says. God changed Jacob’s name that night to “Israel,” which means God-Grappler.
God has established a clear pattern of initiating encounters with his people. Jacob’s wrestling match is one example that is not unlike the many times he has done this in our own lives.
God engages us in close combat because He wants us to know that relationship with him is not as easy as putting a coin in the candy machine. To know God is to struggle with him in the difficulties of life. To hear from him and be near to him doesn’t always mean that we sing nice, sweet Christian songs all the time.
Sometimes we are perplexed by His actions, and we question him like Job, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Peter, Martha and others did in the Bible. To question God and wrestle with him means that we are interacting with him, which results in radical life change. You don’t come away from interaction with God without transformation.
Anyone else in favor of a name change?