I have been considering strategies for creating healthy places of recovery. Recovery from all kinds of things: abuse, anger, adultery, sexual lust, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, etc, etc, etc. If we are going to have a church in the neighbourhoods we are called to we have to figure out how to create spaces of “RE” within our small group relationships(RE-genreation, RE-covery, RE-storation, RE-habits). These RE-demption groups have to be safe places where people are able together to wrestle with God until the Gospel leads them to giving up to His RE-vival in their lives.
Genesis 32, I would argue is a definite turning point of RE-covery, in the life of Jacob- the cheater, manipulator, liar and selfish sinner.
Four lessons stick out to me as I look at one of the darkest nights of Jacob’s life. Four lessons that have some kick back for me. Reality is if we are going to be able to set up as a church that has RESTORATION and REDEMPTION at the heart of it then anyone who wants to fully enter into this type of church will have to recognize their own selfish addiction under the bright light of the Gospel. Jesus came to save sinners and I’m the one most in need of a Savior.
The four lessons briefly are these:
1.MY LEGS ARE TO SHORT TO OUTRUN MYSELF Gen. 31-32:24a Jacob is running from the manipulation, abuse, and addiction to self in his present – towards the hope of finding some rest, restoration for his future and he runs face first into the manipulation, abuse, addiction and selfish hurt of his past. Past, present, future he has overwhelmed himself with himself. No matter where we run, the friends we change, the spouse we get rid of, the habit we transfer to, or the location we move away from we discover late at night, all alone, that our worst enemy is still there. My legs are to short to outrun myself!
2. MY KNUCKLES ARE SORE FROM HITTING MYSELF Gen. 32:24b Jacob gets ambushed by this warrior who comes out of no where. This is not a daddy and a child wrestling. This is no fake WWF stuff. This is hand to hand combat. This is UFC style without the referee! Jacob was wrestling for his life- he didn’t know if this was one of Esau’s men who had come scouting, perhaps to kill him and win the day? Or if it was a crazed robber who wanted him dead to then take what little he had with him. Either way, there was smashed, bloody knuckles, gulping, burning lungs, smashed faces, skinned knees, moments of terror and exhaustion. They fought for the better part of the night. Jacob could not make any progress against this warrior. He felt like he was getting exhausted without getting any where. That’s the way we feel when we are just trying to overcome our sinful habits, and selfishness on our own. We exchange one habit for another equally addictive pattern of behavior. It’s like a constant pummeling of our own faces with our fists! Hard to find freedom this way. We need to be surrounded by those who are willing to fight for us and with us in the hope of the gospel against our own self destructive sin.
3. MY HIPS ARE TOO WEAK TO FIGHT WITH GOD Gen 32:25 Jacob finally in sheer exhaustion, in the breaking of the dawn of the longest night of his life is defeated. The Warrior with whom he wrestles, who is called the man of God (probably a reference to Jesus), reaches down and pops his leg out of joint so badly that the inner tendons of his thigh are torn! Wrestling with God may mean a true experience of terror as our addiction to self is torn away. Jacob can do nothing else accept to wrap his arms around Jesus and hold on! This is the shear rawness of the Gospel, we can do nothing about making our sin better. Sin has to be torn from our soul by the work of Christ. We can only grab hold of Him for the hope our life! With Jesus, brokenness becomes the good fruit of submission and the posture of blessing!
4. MY ONLY HOPE OF WINNING IS TO TAP OUT Gen 32:27-29 There it is, the hope of REDEMPTION! Blessing, life, victory and all the “RE” of life can only come by dieing to self and holding onto Christ for new life!
What are the RE-sults of this wrestle of Jacob’s Life? Read on in chapters 32 and 33. He is given a NEW name, NEW walk, and RENEWED promise. Further the brother who hated Jacob, sought to kill him in the past, now comes to him weeping, kissing him and with his four hundred warriors, escorting him back home!
My God is the God of great RE-versals and RE-storation! Willing to know that type of God, in that type of community? REDEMPTION calls you to the wrestle of your life!