So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched. And he was limping because of his hip. –Genesis 32:24-25, 31 NIV
My dad walked with a lifelong limp as the result of a childhood accident. I also walk with a limp; however, mine isn’t a physical or even metaphorical limp. It’s more like a life-experience, lessons-learned limp.
In reality, we all walk with limps — some are just more noticeable than others.
In the story of Jacob wrestling all night with a stranger, we come to realize his struggle was with God. The conflict lasted all night and became so intense that God finally touched Jacob’s hip, dislodging it somehow. From that encounter, Jacob limped for the rest of his life.
Imagine what he told his family the following morning. “Hey, dad, why are you limping?” “Thanks for asking, Reuben. I slipped on a rock last night and twisted my hip.” “No worries, Judah; I must have slept wrong last night.”
How can you accurately and convincingly describe an all-night wrestling match with God? Maybe Jacob used his limp to counsel his children or grandchildren when they contemplated decisions or were on the verge of making poor judgment calls.
I suspect Jacob occasionally regretted his limp, possibly even getting angry with God for giving it to him. After all, is there not a less painful way to learn a life lesson? Yet each halting step reminded him of his intimate encounter with God.
The limps of life. The scars, sad memories, unfavorable circumstances and negative consequences from the poor choices and decisions we all make. We rebel against God, impulsively straying from His moral standard, then walk with a limp as a result.
There are days when I hate and regret my limp, but I can do nothing to change it. It has become a part of me, part of my redeeming story. My life scars are reminders of my encounters with God, my rebellious resistance against His moral standards. But my limp also reminds me of my loving Father’s discipline — of His desire to keep me from something harmful and motivate me to something better. Like Jacob (who God renamed Israel), it reminds me of His transforming “spiritual name” change.
Hopefully, my limp can warn other people. Imagine the limp warnings if everyone shared their stories:
- “My financial ruin warns against having affairs and committing adultery.”
- “My court date warns against uncontrolled road rage.”
- “My sexually transmitted disease warns against premarital or extramarital promiscuity.”
- “My lengthy unemployment warns against insubordination and anger in the workplace.”
- “My prison sentence warns against breaking the law.”
- “My tarnished reputation warns against lapses in judgment.”
- “My Restraining Order warns against domestic violence.”
- “My unhappy and unfulfilled marriage warns against low dating standards, impatience, desperation, ignoring red flags and overlooking incompatibility.”
- “My addiction warns against experimenting with drugs.”
- “My shambled resumé warns against a poor work ethic or lack of integrity.”
- “My inability and unwillingness to leave an abusive partner warns against the tolerance of disrespect.”
You have your own story to share. It may not be as severe as these examples, yet you limp along nonetheless.
What have you learned from your limp? More importantly, how can you and I use our limps to help others avoid having such a severe encounter? Here are some potential lessons:
- No matter your limp, God loves you intensely.
- There is no limit on the number of limps one person may experience. Learn from others’ experiences to guard against additional limps.
- Embrace your limp as a reminder of your close encounter with God.
- Limps may result from God’s discipline, but they are loving motivations to a more intimate walk with God.
- Limps may encourage others to avoid similar mistakes.
Father God, thank You for lovingly making us better than we sometimes want to be. You gently remind us of Your desire to have a vibrant, intimate relationship with us. Help us learn from our “wrestling matches” with You. Use our limps as living testimonies of Your grace, love, forgiveness and transformation.