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 hip. Genesis 32:24-31
Last year when in a few weeks my world turned upside down and I found myself in a deep depression, a wise friend told me this: “From now on you will choose as your friends the ones who walk with a limp.”
I didn’t know entirely what he meant at the time. But these days I’ve been thinking once again about his words. This time because my hip has been aching- and it would be disingenuous to claim that I have been wrestling with angels.
Unless wrestling with my four-year-old son qualifies. A favorite activity these days is to body slam mommy on the bed in some sort of primordial, male-bonding ritual that leaves me feeling as beaten up as the Mickey Rourke character in the last episode of the movie, “The Wrestler.”
But these days, when my hip aches I think I understand a bit more what my friend was trying to tell me. It has to do with the blessing of our wounds. Jacob asked God to bless him and God gave him a sore hip that made him limp. (Maybe we need to be careful what we ask for!)
These days when the pain in my hip acts up and I find myself hobbling, I remember a five-year-old boy, Trey, who loves playing sports. Just about every kind. Recently his parents noticed that he was limping at T-ball practice. Then one day Trey said he didn’t want to go to T-ball practice anymore. Because his legs were hurting. So his parents took him to the doctor. The doctor found a cyst. Now they are doing more tests. They say that little Trey most likely has a degenerative bone disease.
When the pain in my hip starts, I remember Trey. And I ask God to heal this little boy with the great, big smile and even bigger love of sports, so that he can play T-ball again. I ask God to comfort Trey and his family and to strengthen them in all manner of grace.
Our wounds, whatever they may be, can serve as a gateway to entering into God’s compassion for ourselves and our world. Our pain can become a sacred meeting place with God. Our fragility? A reminder of the times when we have wrestled with God and prevailed- when God, in the very act of contending with us, is actually closest to us. Locked in an embrace that will forever change us.
In our own and others’ woundedness we have an opportunity to experience in small part the very woundedness of God Himself. If God is Love, then God is wounded. Love cannot exist apart from woundedness.
The Bible affirms this truth. God is One who was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). The great mystery and bitter-sweet miracle of the Good News is that only in God’s being “bruised by our iniquities” are we healed. Jesus on the cross is the clearest picture of this divine love.
So my friend was right: there is a whole lot that our wounds and other “walking wounded” can teach us. About God. About ourselves. About what it means to love and be loved. From now on I will walk with those who limp.
Read more funny kids’ prayers here: http://www.beliefnet.com/JesusDaily/Features/Funny-Prayers-From-Kids.aspx?p=8#ixzz1bsfP3O5m.