“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak…‘What is your name?’…” Gen 32:24-26.
I love to watch Gator Boys on television at night. It fascinates me how once the alligator has been isolated the process seems to be identical – they mess with him until he is completely worn out…nothing left of his own will…he has come to the end of his own strength.
Jacob had lived up to his name which meant deceiver, liar and manipulator. He had preyed on others and had swindled them out of blessings. God determined that it was time for Jacob to be broken and wrestled away from his sinful character. Jacob lived his life in a self-preservation mode depending on his own resources and abilities. Like the alligator his time of intimidation and manipulation was coming to an end, but he wouldn’t go down without a fight. The wrestling match went on until morning until God made him acknowledge who he was. For the Hebrews, a name was the essence of the person’s identity. With this question (what is your name?), God made him face up to the way he had been living. Jacob had to examine and own up to his own defective character.
We all have a name that we have given ourselves operating through our lives. My former name was seeker…seeker of approval, seeker of glory, seeker of credit, seeker of acceptance. Seeking was my mantra and was the motivation of all my actions. While it fed my insecurities it never nourished my spirit…my spiritual stomach continuously growled for more. Finally, God set up circumstances wherein He wrestled with me, wore me down and brought me to the end of myself. I held on tightly to my best laid plan, not wanting to release it…it was all I had known. But that day in the loft, spirit to spirit, He stared into my life and asked me my name. He held up a mirror and I was brought to terms with pride and brokenness. He brought me to the realization that He had a better life for me than the one I had built for myself. ‘Even in moments of crisis when we know there is nothing we can do to help ourselves, we’re still hell-bent on our self-preservation…Even though we may acknowledge that God’s way is best, we nevertheless hold with white knuckles to our own ability to fix things’ Faith Limps, p. 153.
We will wrestle with God until we surrender whatever we are ‘white-knuckling.’ God will pin us down when we calculate things in our own abilities. When we attempt to impose our own will over His will, we will find ourselves on our backs.
In reflecting on that year, I known that the wrestling match was more about love than punishment…freedom in place of captivity…trading in a broken name for a perfect name. My name is the same name that you can bear…loved. What is no longer working in your life that needs to be surrendered to God? What name defines you but no longer serves you? Pray that God will reveal the things that need to be given up to experience complete freedom and love in Him.
Read more articles by Brenda Emmons or search for articles on the same topic or others.