I have a suspicion that at least part of what needs to happen within me during Lent has something to do with God wrestling away the old in me in order to make way for the new. It's almost like I am stuck in a decaying orbit and have no hope of breaking free from the gravitational pull that keeps me bound, unless I am liberated by Someone much larger than myself. Someone who can set me free from my old ways of being and of seeing, in order that I might live my life more fully the way He intended (and desperately desires) me to live. The problem is that the way to this new life of freedom and wholeness leads through a wrestling that is likely to leave me, as it did Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32), wounded and broken first. Yet that path seems the only way to the new life and the new (true) identity I most desperately long for. Thus, this wrestling cannot be avoided, or bypassed.
Thomas Merton said it so well when he said that: "Only this inner rending, the tearing of the heart, brings this joy. It lets out our sins, and lets in the clean air of God's spring, the sunlight of the days that advance toward Easter. Rending of garments lets in nothing but the cold. The rending of heart is that tearing away from ourselves and our vetustas--the oldness of the old man, wearied with the boredom and drudgery of an indifferent existence, that we may turn to God and taste His mercy, in the liberty of His sons." There is a wounding in this wrestling that is intended to make way for the new to be born. So the wrestling, albeit frightening and uncomfortable, is a glorious necessity in the process of being made whole. I cannot do it on my own (heaven knows I've tried), only God can give me the power to break free from the old and the tired, and step into the new and the fresh.
The tricky part is that we, like Jacob, don't always recognize right off the bat that we're actually wrestling with God. Jacob just thought, at first, he was wrestling with a man. It wasn't until later, new name and all, that he finally realized that it was indeed God with whom he was wrestling. The same is true for me. At times I think I am wrestling with my anxieties or my insecurity, or that I am wrestling with a person with whom I am in conflict. At times I think I am wrestling with my circumstances or my church or my spouse or my vocation. At times I think I am wrestling with motivation or frustration or discontent. But if I look closely at each one of those, I will recognize that the man behind the curtain, the one I'm really wrestling with, is God. And once I realize this, it changes everything. I am able to see that this wrestling is not only about my death, but is also about my life. It is not my circumstances or my relationships or the people in my world that need to change, it is me. God is wrestling with me, trying to accomplish something deep in my soul. Something that will change everything about me, the same way it did with Jacob.
O God, give me eyes to see that it is You. It is You that I'm wrestling with and not the face, or the circumstance, that is before me at the moment. And it is You that is wrestling with me; trying to strip away all of that old man, trying to keep me from living out of those old (false) names and patterns that I tend to live out of. In order that I might receive the beautiful new name that You long for me to know myself by and to live out of. Thanks be to You.