My Jacob Moment

by Dawn Aldrich

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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 NIV

There comes a time in our walk with Jesus, when our past catches up to the present. That past that we gulped down hard and packed away deep below the surface; the chapter that we thought we finally closed. But the funny thing is, if we don’t resolve the past, it keeps challenging us to a wrestle in hopes of a resolution.

It was early spring and the New Hampshire mountains remained captive by winter’s frozen veil.

Lost in thought, I trudged my way up the newly formed snow path from my bunkhouse to the chapel, wondering if I’d made the right decision, because women’s retreats weren’t “my thing.” Maybe it was all the fluff and foo-foo conversations that seemed to permeate every women’s retreat I’d attended before. I’d much rather bypass all those niceties and jump right into the hard stuff—the meaty conversations that changed your heart forever.

I waded through the thick molasses worship set and then poised myself to take copious notes of the speaker’s message, all-the-while praying, “Dear God, I showed up. Now speak! Make this retreat worth my effort, please?” Oh, boy. Did. He. Ever.

It wasn’t so much what the speaker said, but the challenge she presented for the next morning. Based upon God’s name, Abba (Father), we were to make a list of all the positive life lessons we garnered from our earthly fathers. {In marches my past…that chapter I’d slammed shut when I was fifteen when I spewed disrespect towards the father who walked out on us all.} I wrestled God to the ground all night—argued my fatherless, painful past was punishment enough. How dare He open up that closed chapter again? Besides, what positive lessons could I have possibly learned from a father who walked out on his daughters?

By daybreak, I conceded and slipped away to a quiet room, alone. In the silence I gave God another punch, spilling my angry words onto paper. Five pages later, I took a breath and God asked, “Are you done yet? Now, write these words down. Here are all the positive things your father passed onto you.” And God proceeded to bring to mind all the wonderful characteristics embodied by my father—those things that I saw in myself, but ignored because I knew it meant I was a bit like him. Then when the list exhausted itself, God said, “Now write these things down. Here’s the positive lessons you learned DESPITE the fact your dad walked away. And this list was where God showed me how he redeems the past, the wrong and makes all things work for good for those who love Him.

And before the hour ended, God threw me a challenge. Knowing the wrong and the pain my father caused me, knowing now, all the positive aspects he added to my life just because of who God created him to be and despite the facts, God forgave him. God could see the wrong no longer and only saw the man…the father…He created him to be from the beginning of time. So, what about me? God asked me to offer my father the grace and forgiveness that Jesus freely offered me.

Exhausted, I left the retreat a few hours later—a whole day early—and pondered God’s challenge. I’d love to say I took action immediately, but I didn’t. I’d be lying if I said my heart melted that day and I ran to my father’s side and threw my hands around his neck and forgave him instantly. It took months. God wouldn’t let me go and kept reminding me of Jesus’ grace so freely given. When I finally had enough wrestling, I visited my father and relayed this story, face-to-face. I truly forgave him for the past and God redeemed the past.

I call this wrestling, my Jacob moment after the Old Testament story found in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God through the night. Have you ever had a Jacob moment? Are you resisting God’s prodding for some unresolved issue? Is there someone you need to forgive?

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