We never had the opportunity to engage in wrestling in our school system, in White County, Tennessee, because it wasn’t offered. I would have had absolutely no interest in the sport at the time, but I have learned from friends in other parts of the country how powerful this sport really is. It instills a foundation that carries through the rest of your life. I am told that you’re only as good on the mat as you are in practice. This single sport teaches young people the value of hard work, it elevates their self-worth and self-esteem, it promotes respect for your opponent, and the team atmosphere generates a healthy appreciation for the other persons success. Wrestling allows two people to grab ahold of each other with force all while trying to pin the other guy to the mat for the win. Sweat mixes with energy and is transferred with power into the other person and all of this is done up close. Afterward, the two shake hands, congratulate one another, and exit the match with respect. There should never be any shame in getting bested by someone better. However, a wrestler is taught anything less than their best is a recipe for defeat. Some wrestlers are beaten, and some tap out to end their match. Either way, the meaning of the word is to grabble, struggle, or contend. The word in itself implies a duration of tightly-bonded struggle with another person that is anything less than quick.
In the book of Genesis, a guy wrestled his whole life with something. His name was Jacob and our first introduction of him was in his mother’s womb. In chapter 25, Jacob and his brother Esau wrestled for birthright before they were ever born. They struggled so violently their mother asked God if everything was OK with her. A few verses later, the struggle continues through their birth, with Jacob holding his brother’s heel as they entered this world. Jacob wrestled with his brother and father and even who he was throughout his younger years all the way up until the day he bartered his brother out of his birthright and fled the country. Jacob struggled with wives and his father-in-law for years as his own family grew. Then, his heavyweight bout brought him to the edge of the waters where he engaged in the fight of his life. Chapter 32 tells the story of how on the eve of confronting his brother for the first time since he left, Jacob sent his family across the stream ahead of him, and he remained alone by the water’s edge. It was at this place and on this night that he met a man, and they grabbed one another with force. Sweat mixed with energy and transferred into power throughout the night, but neither could overcome the other until the man changed Jacob’s life forever by touching his hip and dislocating it. Energy depleted, bruised, broken, and sore, Jacob would still not let go of the man, demanding he bless him. This was the point where Jacob realized his opponent was the Lord himself. He changed his name that morning in the twilight of the dawn as well as the way he walked. Jacob would forever be reminded of his experience with God by the way he walked. His limp is what kept his feet on the ground. His limp is what humbled him when he became arrogant. His limp was his connection to God all the way up until his death. Hebrews 11:21 says that he bowed or leaned on his staff when he blessed his sons. For the rest of his life, he never abandoned his limp.
Our experience, or the lack thereof, with God will be evidenced in some way. The time we spend with God will begin to change who we are. We struggle with our identity throughout our lives trying to discover freedom and a little peace. But it’s the heavyweight bout with God that changes the way we walk. The wrestle within ourselves will never produce a winner, but when we refuse to let go of God is when our life is forever marked with a limp. And when that limp is our identity, everything else will fall into place.
Make the choice today to walk with a limp. Stop being afraid of what people will think and start thinking about what Jesus is wanting to do in you and through you. Let’s talk about this more on Sunday. We’re Christpoint Church on the square in Sparta, and we’re open at 9 a.m. and again at 11 a.m., on Sunday. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.