THE LIMP OF JACOB: a BALL AND SOCKET JOINT EXPERIENCE
God can be known at different levels; at the rational or experiential level. For most people, knowledge of God’s existence is at the rational level where God is impalpable in a sense. But for the belief in God to be etched in anyone’s consciousness, it may have to be substantiated by a lasting ‘emotional’ experience. This is because as humans with psychological and emotional faculties, we are certain to remember mainly events that are laden with intense emotion that helps them stick in our memory. Engaging all the faculties of the human being helps in retaining the God-experience, and this knowledge helps in influencing our mindset which inadvertently helps in modeling our behavior and attitudes towards people and issues in life.
Hence we read in 1 John 1:1ff:” That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; For the life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested in unto us…”
This sort of experience goes deeper than the skin’s depth and is etched in the inner recesses of the soul. Patriarchs of the Old Testament had this experience in varying dimensions. But one stands out because of the nature of the encounter he had with God: JACOB!
Running away as a fugitive from the wrath of his brother, ESAU whom he had defrauded and deprived of his birthright and eternal destiny, Jacob had an experience that changed his life forever. At some point in the journey, God decided to step down from heaven and eventually revealed himself to Jacob as the God of Abraham and Isaac, at a place called Bethel.
On his return journey, he once again faced another threat from his brother, Esau. At night he wrestled with God at a place he later called Peniel and In the process, his name “supplanter” was commuted for another that dramatically changed his destiny forever. From Jacob, he became transformed to become Israel, the patriarch and custodian of God’s covenant to Abraham which was inherited by Isaac. He thus completed the triangle of blessing such that God now became the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! But something interesting about this Peniel experience was that it left him with a ‘disability’ that he walked with a limp all the days of his life on earth. The tendon of his hip joint, the largest of all the ‘ball and socket joints’ in the body was traumatized such that no miracle of healing could reverse the experience. So Jacob walked with a limp and this encounter had to remain ever fresh in his mind as well.
We all need the Jabob’s limp and the ball and socket joint experience to interrupt us as we go on in the hot pursuit of life’s goals and dreams. Jacob’s limp slowed him down and impressed a consciousness of the divine continually in his heart and soul. He passed on the blessing to his 12 sons who carried the torch of eternal destiny beyond the land of Israel, and this cup of blessing is being passed along from generation to generation….and has reached multitudes worldwide and many of us in Africa.
I personally had the typology of Jacob’s ball and socket joint experience way back in 1994 while I was an undergraduate student. It is still as fresh in my mind as it was that fateful Friday night but I still can’t fathom or explain why happened. But it did happen anyway and the memory has never left me ever since. I experienced what I have never experienced before…I experienced a heightening of my spiritual senses like I never could have imagined. Close family members who witnessed the encounter were left in wonder and amazement and erroneously felt it may have been a hallucination of some sort. But to me, that was a defining moment and place of watershed in my experience and understanding of God.
I lack words to describe the way my spirit lifted, and soared in ecstasy unknown till it came back to inhabit me. It was as though I reached the Gates of Heaven and came back with a transformed spirit. All the questions, uncertainties and puzzles oft life that had occupied my mind for such a long time received answers even though I didn’t hear voices speak to me. After the encounter, my quizzing mind settled and rested and no one could deflate my confidence in the reality of the spiritual world. Much more than that, my belief in God became anchored deeper in my soul…and no contrary argument, however convincing and engaging would make me question the reality and existence of God.
Many contemporary Christians hunger for divine power but many of us are unwilling to pay the price for what we so desperately are in need of. Our powerlessness has become so glaring to the secular world who mock at us in a gleeful way. And we sure are in need of no ‘emotional experience’ of such spiritual dimension to become powerful Christians, but we sure need to stir and fan into flame, our hunger and yearning for God. When Jacob separated himself from his wives, children and servants and put aside all his possessions to seek HIM, God showed forth and transformed Jacob for good.
For us that live in the 21st century with so much clamoring for our attention, we need to make extra efforts to seek God…and pursue His presence like never before. Like Jacob, our joints might be subluxed or dislocated as well, and we may end up with a limping gait too. But I’d rather have God dislocate my joints than walk erect without experiencing the depths of God’s presence in my life. Jacob’s encounter with God’s presence ,not just the ‘stealing of the birthright’ made his life more outstanding than that of Esau; his brother…and God is still in the business of seeking for those that will worship HIM in spirit and in truth!