“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.” – Genesis 32:25
All human beings look for meaning in their particular situations. As a result, it is probably not surprising I have been thinking about Jacob lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about his hip. Long ago, Jacob wrestled a man all night on the banks of the Jabbok River in modern Jordan. The identity of the man is a bit mysterious, but we believe the man to be God or, at the very least, a representative of God. During the wrestling, he touches Jacob’s hip which is permanently injured. Jacob, now named Israel, will walk with a limp.
In the past several months, I too have been walking with a limp. I haven’t been wrestling with God, but I can sympathize with Jacob’s plight. X-rays show that the cartilage that cushions the hip bone has deteriorated. Basically, I am walking with bone rubbing bone. It doesn’t feel very good.
Where Jacob faced this situation for the rest of his life, I live in an age where there are medical solutions. I am thankful to God for surgery and artificial hips. Likewise, I know of many others who are facing challenges much worse than mine. I have the comfort to know that my pain is temporary. This experience has led me to pray more fervently for those with chronic pain.
The biblical story suggests that Jacob’s pain is meant to humble him. Through this wrestling match, Jacob is blessed, but he carries the wound to remind him of his weakness. Ultimately, Jacob must rely upon God. As a pastor, I would never attribute a person’s pain to God. Moreover, I cannot speak for another’s situation, but reflecting upon my own, I do think that God has something to teach me.
My first sermon at First Presbyterian Church of Norwalk was entitled, “Confessions of a Sabbath-breaker.” In it, I confessed that I struggle with taking Sabbath. If there is ministry to be done, I am going to do it. Sometimes my health and my own personal relationships be damned. Since then, the church has been wonderfully supportive and helpful. Out of kindness, church members remind me to pace myself and seek self-care.
Now, as I am dealing with hip osteoarthritis, God is giving me a deeper understanding of Sabbath. God can certainly handle running the world if I rest one day a week. More than that, I am reminded that all my accomplishments are dependent upon God’s grace. I must let go of my self-importance. Each painful step inspires me to pray, “I belong only to You.” I certainly have selfish moments, and I have had more than a few pity parties. Nonetheless, weakness has drawn me closer to God. The cross of Jesus has more meaning for me these days.
As I face surgery and recovery, I certainly ask for your prayers. I am excited for what God will continue to do among us. Let us not be discouraged by our weakness. Instead, let us be carried by God’s strength.
Grace & Peace,