Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Jacob … said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Gen 32: 24, 30

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Some years ago I had a conversation with a Dear Friend and former colleague that very much reminded me of the above Genesis story about Jacob on the eve before he was to meet his brother Esau from whom he has been estranged for a good number of years.

The conversation I refer to occurred when I was living in a monastery in the mountains.

One Sunday within a few months of my taking residence there, I received a call from my friend John who asked, “So how is it going?”

Knowing by his inflection that he meant something special by this question, I responded by saying, “Do you mean has monastic life changed me in a substantive way?”  He eagerly responded, “Ya, that’s what I mean.”  His remark confirmed and clarified my perception.

Spontaneously, I said to my New York City basketball-loving friend, “Oh, John, there’s no magic window or special door you go through – it’s all one-on-one basketball, you against God.  He beats you every time and you hope you get better.”

John’s utterance?  “I’m so relieved.”

Yes, John wondered if entering a religious quarter and mode of existence substantively changed a person.  No, folks – neither geography, or a practiced daily routine changes one per se.

Moving to God is more the like of Jacob.  You must face God, engage a struggle to come to terms with your life as it is, and your life as it can and must be.

The change we seek in faith is akin to wrestling with God.  One way or another, you’ll have to grow and mature to become as you were intended to be.

Lest you think that the struggle is unnecessary remember this: Jacob was estranged from his brother Esau because Jacob cheated Esau out of his older brother’s birthright, their father Isaac’s estate.

You see, we err and yet God will, when we face ourselves honestly, reconcile us to our better self.

Just as Jacob wrestled with the truth of his life, so, too, must you.

We all err.  Turning honestly to God, God reconciles.  There are no shortcuts, no magic windows and no special doors, no geography or daily routine.  There is just you and God and one-on-one basketball.  He beats you at the game of life, in humility – you get better.

Shalom.

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