Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Gimp

What's hardest (or perhaps not so hard at all) to believe about Jacob's story by the Jabbok River is that for all the rest of the stories we have about Jacob in the Bible, we never hear Jacob asking for his limp to be healed. Never.

Remember, this is the Jacob who wrestled all night with a complete stranger and refused to let the man go until he offered him a blessing, when Jacob did not even know who the stranger was or what kind of blessing he might have to offer. This is the Jacob who stole his brother Esau's blessing when they were but boys, who schemed with his mother and duped his father and did whatever it took to walk away blessed. 

You'd think this Jacob wouldn't be satisfied to be a gimp, particularly when he is so used to relentlessly demanding whatever he desires until he receives it. 

Yet not one uttering of a demand, a request, or even a hope that God would heal his limp. Not. One.

I wonder if Jacob maybe had the same kind of divided piousness that most of us struggle with. He was a blessed man; that much is sure. How could he not be? He'd taken by force a number of blessings in his life. His father, the stranger, even his brother would come to bless him. Maybe every time he took a step on that struggling leg, every time he felt that hip just a little out of place, he reminded himself that he was, indeed, a blessed man. How could a blessed man complain? How could a blessed man dare ask for something more?

I wonder if Jacob maybe thought about his limp the way we so often think of our raw places. It was clear to him, he knew well, that this limp lived in the place where God had touched him. And if God had already touched him and produced the limp, why would he think that God had any other plan for his hip than its displacement? If God produced the ache, doesn't that mean that God desires the ache? Isn't there something...holy...about this limp? Hasn't God simply decided that the man should be a gimp?

I wonder if Jacob maybe thought the limp was temporary, that it would just go away on its own after awhile. It was the byproduct of one struggle, of one night along the Jabbok River. As time passed, it would heal. The more he lived his life, the more wealth he accumulated, the more prayers he prayed, the more apologies he issued, the more faith he acquired, the more steps he took, the more his hip would just sort of...work its own pain out. Time heals all wounds. He just couldn't let himself be distracted by the limp; it would work itself out.

These, among many others, are the excuses I have for not asking God to heal me. These are the things I tell myself when I find myself gimping through the world. I'm blessed; how could I complain about anything? God caused this limp; clearly, He wants me to have it. It will, as all things do, work itself out; I just can't let it be a distraction from the other things I'm doing. 

Sound familiar?

I have to be honest and say that I don't know the story God had in mind for Jacob's limp. I don't know what God intended for the limp to be or to mean. There's a lot about Jacob's limp that I don't know. And there's a lot about mine that I don't really understand, either. 

But I also know that there are so many times in my own life that I feel like I'm one breath away from not being a gimp any more, one breath away from God healing the limp. All I have to do is take one good breath and form it into some simple, bold, honest prayer and God would answer me. God would heal me. God would reach out and touch again the place that hasn't forgotten the last time He touched it and I wouldn't have to gimp around any more. One. Good. Breath.

And I wonder why Jacob never did it. I wonder why he never prayed this prayer. I wonder why he never sought healing. I wonder why he never asked God to touch his hip just one more time, to use that same tender touch to put things back in place. To heal him. I wonder why this man, who was never shy about demanding blessing, never demanded more. 

And I wonder why I can't seem to find the breath....

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