We wonder where God is? And why doesn’t God show up in a particular way we want God to show up? We wonder why the universe is organized the way that it is. We want to give God some design advice about all kinds of things. And so, that’s a wrestle. And so, you know, I think the upshot of all of this is that to wrestle with God, there are some significant benefit. Our wisdom is limited, God’s wisdom is not limited. And God will bless us for the enterprise.
Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rau. And this is a conversation inspired by For Faith Weekly Devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
Hey, Bishop. You named this week’s For Faith devotion, wrestle. Based on the story of Jacob, his night long wrestling match landed him with a broken hip. But hey, he got a cool new name.
Rob: He got a cool name.
Melissa: I’m just wondering, what impacted you most about this story that inspired your reflection?
Rob: Yeah. Well, I’m always, you know, whenever I sit down, I’m thinking about the folks I get to meet and who told me that they read, they listen to the podcast. A pastor’s heart always means that you want to try and offer folks something that helps them in the real world, you know, in the real ups and downs of life. So, when you read these timeless stories from the Bible through that lens, then you realize that in Jacob, we have a compatriot, right? I mean, he’s wrestling, we’re wrestling. He’s not perfect, we’re not perfect. He’s trying to figure out his life with God, we’re trying to figure out our life with God. Sometimes amazing, you know. Hard to articulate stuff happens to us. Sometimes we feel changed. And sometimes we feel like we have a new outlook. I’m always looking for friends in scripture that we can reintroduce to us.
Melissa: Well, after reading this week’s For Faith, one of my takeaways is that it’s natural and perhaps even good to wrestle with God from time.
Melissa: So, does that mean those who haven’t wrestled with God are missing out?
Rob: Well, I don’t know. I don’t want to say that anybody’s missing out, because, you know, I don’t want to limit God’s ability to connect with all kinds of different hearts, right? So, that’s the first thing that I want to say. But I want to say, after reading the Bible a long time, I’ve been talking to folks a long time, we inevitably get to wrestle with God in some way, shape, form or fashion. I think, because, as Isaiah said, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, our ways are not God’s ways. And wrestling is about two opposing forces trying to sort of have dominance over the other. And I think if we’re honest, we have tried to persuade God to do things our way and to see the world our way and to bend to our will. I think that is true.
We want God to be a particular way. And we find as we live with God, God is always I think, appreciative of the advice, but God has some clear ideas about how God wants to be God. And so, right in there is wrestling, right?
As I say in meditation, to wrestle with God is to be learning God, right? I remember as a youngster, wrestling with my older uncles and so on, they were not just trying to throw me around, they were trying to teach me something, right? About about how to handle myself and those sorts of things. And I’m grateful as I look back that they were greater than me in power. But because they were kind and merciful to me, I learned some things about how to handle myself, etc. And I hope that is a gentleness that I passed on to people for who I have power over. There is a particular way to exert power. And I think that is happening here too. I mean, God is the Ruler of all the world. God could crush us, right? If God wanted to crush us.
So, there must be something in God’s heart in mind, that God wants to teach us. That is something that we know about God. So, I think that is the wrestling. We wrestle with God when we are in painful situations and intersections in life. We wonder where God is and why doesn’t he show up in a particular way we want God to show up. We wonder why the universe is organized the way that it is. We want to give God some design advice about all kinds of things. And so, that’s a wrestle.
I think the upshot to all of this is that to wrestle with God, there are significant benefits. So, a real authentic life with God is being exactly who you are and taking that to God. God being exactly who God is. And let’s see how that shakes out. I think the Bible says, when we do that with candor, and with sincerity, what we end up learning is that God is a genius. We are not, our wisdom is limited, God’s wisdom is not limited. And God will bless us for the enterprise.
Melissa: You know, I’ve got this image of my two dogs. I’ve got a one year old and a two year old. They are still very much puppies. And you know, one will instigate sometimes and the other will instigate. And they are always sparring together. And I’m wondering about that instigation? I wonder how often God will instigate us into a sparring match and sometimes we miss the cue.
Rob: I think there’s always a sparring match. I mean, you know, sparring, using the word spar in the most sort of gentle and generative kind of way. Again, you know, we don’t have to hypothesize here. I mean, scripture, we’re always grounded in scripture. What are the stories where Jesus instigates something? And then, what are the stories where people bring their sort of finitude, their finiteness, if you will to Jesus, and Jesus sort of, you know, wrangle that around into something that is–
I mean, think about the way that people always pose questions to Jesus. And think about the fact that Jesus never really answered them directly. But always invited them into some other new thought. I mean, that’s a wrestling, right? You know, who is my neighbor? You know, the lawyer said to Jesus, and then Jesus takes him on a ride and tells him a story. And demonstrates themselves superior in love, mercy, and wisdom.
So yeah, I mean, I think sometimes God is instigating. I think that life instigates, right? I mean, I think for those of us that are married or in relationship with people, I think, you know, every day trying to be kind, be generous, to be understanding, to be patient, you are wrestling with your own self, I think. I think that if you hold up for yourselves the value that scripture commends, which is gentleness, long suffering, and humility, that sort of stuff, now you’re wrestling with yourself. We can talk about wrestling with God and we should. But some of the most significant wrestling we will ever do, any of us, is with ourselves.
Melissa: All right, friends, we will be right back after this.
Easton: Hi, friends, you’re hearing worship led by Jason McGee and mass choir at Imagine Worship NYC. Watch the premiere, October 20. Keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook, @BishopRobWright. And now, back to For People
Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, you talked about blessing, you know, blessings getting named. And I mean, Jacob, Israel, gets a broken hip for crying out loud.
Melissa: So, tell me about that. Tell us about what your thoughts are about the whole wrestling match and what happens after we wrestle with God?
Rob: Well, I mean, you know, no cookie cutter here. But I think as we wrestle with God for understanding, for enlightenment, some people call them breakthroughs as we are wrestling with God, as we go a season with God, as we attempt to stand on the promises of Scripture and live those out and try to wring a blessing. I mean, think of someone wringing out a rag after washing a car. If we are wringing out of our life a blessing, you know, you learn all kinds of stuff in that transaction. This is what makes Christian maturity by the way. It is that we have an experience of God, and we live to tell the tale, right?
And so, I think what Jacob gets to say, you know, after his all-night wrestling match with the angel, is he gets to say is, is that he recognizes that he cannot prevail, right? That’s number one. So, that God is God through the angel. And that he is not. I think that’s an important lesson to learn. I think sometimes we proceed if we are in fact God and we are the center of the universe. So, we learn our limits. And to learn one limits, is to learn humility, right?
So, we ought not think more highly of ourselves than we ought too. I think this is what Jacob learns. He also learns something about resilience and perseverance, right? I think he learned something about that. I think he also learns, you know, the genius of God. That his God is not about a perfection God or he would not have been invited to the wrestling match. This God is a God that meets us where we actually are, who we really are, and have something for us to do, all of us. I mean, that’s the point right? So, he changes Jacob’s name to Israel. That ends up being his blessing. And then he ends up being in a special relationship with God, right? So, he has earned no distinction. He didn’t go to the right school, doesn’t have the right pedigree, doesn’t have the right mom and daddy, he’s not done anything perfectly well, right? We know that. He’s sort of a deceptive kind of character, actually. And yet God decides to use this this fella.
So, I mean, we learn a lot of things about ourselves. But we learn something about God. And I think that’s what I’m most interested in. I think we can talk a lot about going to church, and we can talk a lot about reading the Bible, we can talk a lot about in the Episcopal tradition, reading the prayer book and saying the mass, we can do all that sort of stuff. All of that is lovely, enough. But I think what I want to know is really, what do you know about God? You know, what are the characters sketches? You know, what is your character sketch of God? Who is God? Is this God a faithful God? Can you say that with your own mouth? Is this God a genius God? Do you know that for yourself? Is this God a gentle God and correction? Do you know it for yourself? I think this is Christian maturity for you and I to get to know something of God. I think Jacob walks away, he limps away. That’s true, he does limp away. So, h he has a reminder in his flesh of this encounter for the rest of his life.
He limps away, but what does he know about God now? See, I think that is really the recalibration of our lives. When I know something new about God, I can live differently with God. But not only that I can live differently with other people.
Melissa: Yeah, you know, I live in southwest Florida, and we were just hit pretty hard with Hurricane Ian. And you’re right, I just, you know, life. Life can sometimes force that wrestling match. And what do we know about God going through that wrestling match of, you know, that life sometimes throw us you unexpected curveballs and hurricane Ian certainly was one.
And yet on the other side of it, there’s utter devastation. Utter devastation. people displaced from their homes, homes still underwater in many areas. And yet, church was incredible. That Sunday, when we couldn’t even meet in our own sanctuary, we met on the beach. And it was just incredible. So, God is real. And God can be seen. And that’s the good news, I think of all this.
Rob: It is the good news. And you know, who would have said that Ian will reveal certain blessings. I mean, when you look at the devastation at Fort Myers, in other places, you look at the death count. You look at, you know, people who have lived their lives and worked their tails off, and this was their retirement, and they had everything in those little houses and all that sort of stuff, and all that sort of stuff gets blown away. And then, you hear some of those people look into the camera and say, but I’ve got my family, I’ve got my spouse, you know, got my dog, I heard one person say. And I would just want to bless God, I want to thank God.
So, in this wrestling, in this storm season, in this adversity hardship, it’s amazing when it all burns away what is reveals in some of us. And that’s not to trivialize, you know, the suffering, that’s not to trivialize the hardship, the death, the loss. I’m not trivializing that at all. But I’m saying, intention with that, intention with that is, you know, as scripture says, you know, things get burned away. And, you know, what is true remains. And what is true for so many people is that I had all the stuff and we had all of the life and we had all of that and we were going our way, and then all of a sudden this thing came washing ashore, and God is still God. And that’s an extraordinary thing to be able to say in your body, with your mind and heart.
And what does that set loose in the world? I saw a group of, over the news, I saw a group of college kids from Oklahoma. Just got in a car, just some kids, got into a car and headed towards Fort Myers. With no special training, no nothing. Just to move debris off of people’s houses, out of people’s houses, just to be there as a support. I mean, my God. If we could do more of that as a nation. And if we didn’t have to wait until hurricanes came, where would we be? If we could wrestle with our worst impulses and worst angels and let our better angels prevail, not only in the face of storms, but always, my God, wouldn’t we please God.
Melissa: Thank God. Bishop, thanks so much for your wisdom. And thank you listeners to listening to For People.
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