Then the man said, "Let me go for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." - Genesis 32:26
If there was one thing Jacob was good at, it was grabbing and hanging on. At birth, he'd grabbed his brother's heel so he could be the firstborn. Then he'd grabbed Esau's birthright and blessing. To get Rachel as his wife, he'd hung in with his uncle for 14 years. And one night, when the tables are turned and he gets grabbed and pulled into a wrestling match with an angel, Jacob (Hebrew for "the Grabber") again hangs on until he gets what he wants--a blessing.
He was on his way home--the home he'd left fifteen years before. When he learned that Esau and his men were headed his way, Jacob did a very Jacob thing. He sent his family on ahead and hung back alone. He probably thought he'd be just fine.
God had other plans, of course. As Jacob slept, someone (angel, demon, man--the Hebrew is unclear) grabbed him, and an all-night wrestling match began. Neither wrestler could prevail. Finally as day broke, the angel demanded "Release me." But Jacob being Jacob would not let go. "Not until you bless me," he told the angel.
The angel gave that blessing, but probably not as Jacob expected. The angel gave him a limp and then changed his name to Israel ("The "One Who Wrestled with God"). Only then did Jacob finally let go.
Jacob wasn't touched by an angel. He was grabbed, whacked, roughed up by an angel. Sometimes we are, too. Like any relationship worth having, the relationship with God is not all sweetness, light, nor even love. Sometimes it is a wrestling match that demands that we, like Jacob, hang in and hold on. And sometimes the blessings we receive aren't what we expect.
God, help me, like Jacob, to hang in with you. Amen.
From UCC's Still Speaking Devotionals. Visit UCC.org