Angel-wrestling

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Wrestling is so popular in our culture today. It's not my cup of tea, although I am into angel-wrestling. When I have a problem, I see it as an opportunity to wrestle with the lesson it can teach me.

I've used a story in the Bible as my example. The book of Genesis tells about a wrestling match (see chapters 32, 33). Jacob and his brother Esau were estranged, and Jacob was on his way to see if their fractured relationship could be healed. The night before he was to meet Esau, he was alone and wrestled with a man. As they wrestled, Jacob's hip became displaced. The man tried to leave, and Jacob would not let him go until he gave Jacob a blessing. This man gave Jacob a new name in honor of his persistence in this struggle.

First, you have to ask, How could Jacob be alone and also with this man? The answer is it was not a human, but an angel. He told Jacob his name would be changed to Israel, and this name change symbolized his transformation. He no longer felt bound by his old self. He was not just some guy who had a problem with his brother, but a representative of God - a man on a mission.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, wrote about the outcome of the wrestling match with the angel: "This changed the man. He was no longer called Jacob, but Israel, - a prince of God, or a soldier of God, who had fought a good fight" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 309).

One of the most touching parts of this Bible story is when Jacob actually does meet with his brother. Instead of trying to kill Jacob, Esau hugs him. Jacob tries to give him gifts, and Esau says, in essence, "You don't have to do that." Jacob insists, "...receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me" (Gen. 33:10). Jacob was no longer looking for Esau to approve or absolve him. He saw God reflected in himself and in Esau, and the source of the reflection, God, was pleased with him.

At one time, my tendency in facing a physical or emotional problem was simply to wish it were over. Whatever will happen - good or bad - just get it over with. I didn't like not knowing the outcome. But I've learned to be patient with the process, to find the "angel" and get my blessing. I hold onto - or wrestle with - the problem until I learn something from it to gain a greater self-knowledge, which will also give me strength in future situations.

Difficulty in resolving an estrangement or any problem can drain our joy and our ability to see good. It can seem like a cloud surrounding us, or it can have a crippling influence. Jacob wanted to make peace with his brother, but it was years before he really felt it was the right time to just go and meet him, to face up to whatever would happen, even if Esau wanted to kill him. How many times do we replay conversations or actions that have resulted in conflict? If we realize that this is not about being right but rather about healing, we won't resent the process of angel-wrestling.

When I married my husband, my relationship with his mom wasn't great. I wish I could say I was mature and understanding, but that was not the case. I also wish I could say that soon we were best friends. Also not the case. It took years for me to stop reacting to things we said or did to each other that were hurtful.

Before she passed on, she became ill and needed nursing help in her home. I volunteered to relieve my father-in-law during the early morning hours so that he could get some rest. It was clear that neither my mother-in-law nor I could indulge in the luxury of deciding if we liked each other or not. Nursing her during that period of time became one of the most precious experiences of my life. To love someone I thought I would never even like surprised me, and the feeling was mutual.

One day, she asked me to sit close to her, and she gave me a beautiful necklace. It wasn't easy for her to speak, but she managed to say that if she'd had a daughter, she would have given this to her. Pointing at me, she said, "You, you are my daughter." At that moment, I caught a glimpse of how Jacob must have felt when he told Esau, "... I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God ...."

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