The last thing first-time readers expect at this point in the story is a wrestling match. It soon becomes obvious that Jacob is not really confronting a man (v. 24), but a never fully identified opponent who leaves him with a limp and a new name. Categorize the story how we might, Jacob’s all-night struggle with an “Other” leaves him a wondrously marked man.
As a pastor I have had the privilege of hearing many describe their encounters with the Holy. Some have been as dramatic as Jacob’s—stories of tragedy, trial, visions, and miraculous rescues. Others were far less exciting—stories of being raised in a faith that led them one day to undramatically embrace that faith as the central fact of their life. These people only later realized that they crossed a river some time ago and are now wholly on “the other side.”
I’ve heard stories that evoke a range of reactions, from gentle warmth to intense fright.
I’ve given up thinking that all our stories should be alike. God’s grace is too creative to be contained in a one-size-fits-all pattern. But story after story—including Jacob’s—leads me to believe that the Holy One does show up as we struggle in “that night.” God may come via a stranger’s comment, a phrase from Scripture, a blinking caution light, or even a man confronting you. This is your story, given by the God who comes to us. And it begs to be told.
What stories of holy encounter do you have to tell? Who has heard them?
Help me, God, to cherish the stories of our meetings so deeply that I will gladly tell them when you say, “Speak.” Amen.