Suddenly, February. Here in the depths of winter, the hang-over from frenzied festivities and the subsequent bounce back down-to-earth can be slightly disconcerting. Add to the fact it’s full-on cold and flu season, and don’t be surprised when you can inexplicably find yourself on the brink of tears for the most ridiculous of reasons. Our internal gyroscopes simply can’t handle that much bump and grind. February is always my biggest challenge.
The anointing for 2020 was electric and so cyclonic it rushed in with a roar akin to being caught in an avalanche. It was all I could do to tumble through the demands of any given day. As intoxicating as it is to make the first mark on a pristine page, it’s also daunting. We underestimate the exertion and difficulty of crossing new thresholds, the cost of new beginnings. Cross the Jordan and the first thing you face is Jericho. Past strategies aren’t going to work for new territories. As the old Pentecostals used to say, “New levels, new devils”.
Jacob, scoundrel turned patriarch, experienced similar tumult as he finally escaped the greedy grasp of his uncle, Laban. Breaking free wasn’t easy, and the prospect of facing Esau as he returned home made him as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof. The Lord knew the depth of his anxiety, so an angel was dispatched to reassure and accompany him. Instead, skittish Jacob grabbed the divine ambassador in a head-lock before he could get a word out!
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
As much as we wail for change, when transition irrevocably arrives on the doorstep, it’s tumultuous. Maybe it doesn’t come in the packaging we expected; its’ aspect strange or timing unpropitious. Usually, sacrifice in some capacity is demanded. Off-center inaugurations throw us into a double-minded conundrum of “is this from the Lord or not?”. All our idyllic envisioning crashes on the razor-sharp shoals of reality. Metamorphosis just never gets any easier.
I, for one, can appreciate Jacob’s trembly apprehension. I know they say "better the Devil you know", but breaking free from terrible people and negative patterns requires resolution and focused energy. Launching into double-edged, newly-minted potentialities is equally stressful. It’s no wonder the Lord is so tender with over-wrought Jacob! Consider His indulgence as the wrestling continued all night long.
In times of difficult transition, the Almighty waits tolerantly for us to make up our mind and give Him permission to do things His way. We wrestle and wrangle, even though the answer may seem primary in retrospect. He doesn’t rush us. With tremendous, compassionate imperturbability, we’re encouraged to get there on our own. The process is often as important as the product, so He doesn’t push.
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord— that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11
As I re-read the saga of Jacob and his reunion with Esau, I’m struck once again by sheer grace. What we often dread with the most primeval, profound terror turns out to be inexplicably sweet. While we were moving through the alchemy of change, the Lord was quietly working on the equation from another direction. He was setting us up for redemption, for success. When I'm tempted to a quiet stew of trepidation or melancholy, I take a beat to remind myself of His faithfulness, and the cloud lifts. Half, at least, of our worst fears, are the bug-bears of our own imagination and dark shadows of the mind. They’re echoing phantoms of past failure or insecurity. Sometimes, we just need to get a grip on ourselves, and take the joyous leap into the unknown.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of weeping, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7
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