• Matt Frizzell

why wrestlings? - names and naming


The image is by artist Mel Pekarsky and titled "Jacob Wrestles the Angel" (1959) If you're familiar with this story in Genesis 32:22-32, you know its importance and its strangeness. Jacob wrestles with an nameless angel or "man" all night. At daybreak, the angel or "man" does not prevail. So, the angel or "man" kicks Jacob in the groin. He demands to be let go by Jacob, but Jacob demands he bless him. The angel or "man" renames him Israel for struggling with God and humanity, and prevailing. Jacob declares he's seen God face-to-face and limps away. This makes him almost immortal. He joins the ranks of those like Moses and Isaiah who've reported they've seen God.


The story clearly conveys a subtle and foundational message. To struggle and wrestle with God and humanity, to accept the challenges of living in relationship to God and in relationship to other human beings, is to be the people of God. Jacob is the first in a lineage who are the Israelites. Famous Jewish theologians have written on this theme. Martin Buber's I-Thou and Abraham Heschel's Between God and Man dedicate themselves to this foundational understanding of what it means to be human and in relationship with God. I have found through my own walk with Christianity, seminary studies, and pursuing theology and ethics that wrestling is at the heart of all of them. Wrestling with God and humanity is exactly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a rabbi. He taught an approach to Torah, the Law. That is why he was in such conflict the the Pharisees, lawyers, and chief priests. I approach my belonging in Community of Christ, its prophetic tradition and stated mission, the same way.


Wrestling. For now, it is the right title for my blog because that's what most people will find here midst my posts. They'll find wrestling, struggle, and the moments of insight and revelation that come from prevailing momentarily as Jacob did.


I think there will also be signs of what it feels to be wounded in the struggle, kicked in the groin so-to-speak. In Jesus' life, those moments are moments of the cross. For disciples, those moments of woundedness are the experience of the cross in our lives. To walk with Jesus is to risk harm. It takes vulnerability. It takes repentance, which I interpret as open-heartedness toward God and the willingness to stop seeing the problems of the world "over there" or because of "those people." In repentance, the sins of the world and difficulties of the human condition also live within me. So, we wrestle. I wrestle. I struggle to make sense of the world with God in it. I struggle to find justice and seek peace. La Lucha. To live in relationship with God and our fellow human beings with the image of God is to live in the tension of sin and hope, impossibility and possibility, good and evil. In all of it, I find God and the Love of God which overflows and is the source of it all.

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