Is there anything better than a solid night's sleep? Where you fall asleep instantly, no baby's cries or husband's snores wake you, and you arise to the sunlight beaming through the window.
But. Let's be real.
Sometimes, you pull back sheets that haven't been washed in
And there's not much worse than laying in bed at night, unable to sleep. Haven't we all had those long nights, tossing and turning, where sleep will just not come?
Or, worse, yet-- the metaphorical night. When life is dark, and you fail to believe that dawn will make her appearance?
The surprise turns of life, the hurts of broken relationships, the consequences of bad choices, the unknown of the future--whatever it may be for you--they can all work together to steal our rest.
I think Jacob was there.
In Genesis 32, Jacob experiences a night that won't end. And it changes him, forever.
God brought me to Jacob's story, last month, and with it He brought a fresh wave of hope and strength.
The story of Jacob is long and a bit complicated, and at the risk of failing to communicate this chunk of the Bible correctly, I will only spew my heart's thoughts on his duel with the Lord. The night that Jacob wrestled with God.
Jacob had just come out of a tough season. (The season lasted twenty years!) A season characterized by interpersonal conflict, hopes deferred, bad choices, and yet, plenty of success and favor from God.
He had wronged, he had been wronged. He had failed at times, obeyed at other times. At this point in his story, he is in transition. He is in-between seasons.
He wrestles with God. God takes him on, and Jacob holds his own. As dawn is breaking, Jacob courageously asks God for blessing.
God, who has graciously exhausted Jacob physically, now goes after his heart. He asks Jacob his name.
Jacob had to say it out loud.
"My name is Jacob. It means deceiver."
Did the duel pause but for a moment as Jacob instantly relived his failures of the past twenty years?
His habit has been to deceive. His brother, his father, his father-in-law.
Insert my honest thoughts: Really, God? Has he not endured through the night with you? Has it not been a long enough night? Dawn is finally breaking and you want to depress him by bringing up his greatest regrets?
But as if subtly revealing the gospel in one Old Testament sentence God says "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."
He who strives with God.
You will no longer be deceiver, Jacob. You are to be done with deceit. You now know what you are capable of. But now you will be known as Israel. You wrestled with me, you endured the night with me. You are bound to Me, son. You have clung to me through this night. And I have sustained you. Dawn is breaking. Be new.
Perhaps to humble him for what was ahead, or to graciously remind him of that night of clinging to God, God lovingly injured Israel. He dislocated his thigh.
As the sun rose, Israel limped forward.
My mind's eye sits on this visual. A silhouette of a man, crowned with sweat, still breathing hard from the struggle of the night. Walking forward, with the sun rising over the horizon, warming and leading him. His posture is tall from the grace he has received. But he is limping.
Each step. That he would learn, with each step, to more fully depend on this God who interacted with him.
He didn't know what was next. Perhaps more darkness, more conflict, more pain. Or maybe joy, reconciliation, and victory. It didn't matter.
He led the way with a limp.
Could it be that we serve the same God?
A God who is so invested in us, that he comes down and interacts with us? He sometimes allow the night to feel long, so that we will experience Him. A God who invites us to wrestle with Him, or the situation He has allowed, and invites us to become aware of our weaknesses.
But in the moment following self-awareness, when despair or depression want to move in, He speaks up first. And he talks of new life. He talks of new identity. He reminds us that He is in the business of redemption and fresh starts.
Could it be that we are just like Jacob?
God has given us great purpose in his plan of redemption. But because of this world's pain and our own weaknesses, we sometimes need a long night. We need the unending night, because within it God will come to us. And change us. He wants to show us who we really are, what wrongs we are capable of, that we would not become puffed up. Could it be that he has a new identity for us, too? An identity shooting off of his love for us?
Could it be that this same God wants us to move forward with a limp?
That we may never forget our night. That we may never feel a false strength, rooted in human flesh. But that we may always limp, trusting solely in his love and power.
My husband and I want to move forward from our current situation with a limp. I have learned a lot about myself, and at times have felt so weak. The night has felt long at times. But I'm ok with it. I'm ok because I know that the God who loves me is here with me, and is asking that I would endure with him, and be bound to him. I'm ok living in my parent's basement, I'm ok with Matt doing construction (tan husband! insert: cat call!), I'm ok not knowing what is coming next. Because I have God's love and God's promises. I know He is making me new.
So let's embrace the night, and embrace the God that is with us in the night. Let's cling to Him, his goodness and his promises, as we struggle through the night.
And let's limp towards the horizon, towards the sun. Let's stand tall--strengthened by God's love for us.