JJ and i were doing our bible study for the AM and it used the story of Jacob and his 2 wives. While the point the study was getting at, crazy intra-family conflict, wasn’t necessarily what provoked this post, I was compelled to revisit the character of Jacob.
He was quite a guy. I remember hearing a sermon in my preaching practicum class about him, and my colleague drew upon the fact that early in his life Jacob had some real self-actualization issues. Early in his life he said “I am Esau” when he was not. It took him a good bit of life and a wrestle with God before he could say, “I am Jacob”. Which means, btw, “Heel”. “Problem”. Trickster. You know, I could see why Jacob wasn’t real keen on announcing himself with a name like that.
So I did a bit of rereading on Jacob’s life. Just a skim through, it’ll take a while to really absorb all that his God did in his life. But what I came up with, i’m actually still processing. Which is why i write about it under a blog called “thoughts in process.” that means they’re not finished. gives me a bit of leeway.
Jacob started his life named a problem-child. He tricked his brother into giving up his birthright and tricked his dad into giving him the blessing. He then began quite a pattern of running from his problem. Another connection to the name “Heel”? He went to his uncle to get a couple of wives and he himself was tricked. But here’s where I began to notice a life pattern for Jacob. He was a guy that had his eye on what he wanted and he really felt he had a right to have it, no matter the cost. He wanted the life of the firstborn, so he tricked his way into it. He wanted the younger, prettier wife- but that was not proper. Didn’t stop him from bartering for it (and smart guy would go find himself a wingman to marry the older one so he could have Rachel and everyone is happy). Jacob would see something and then do what it took to have it. You have to admit, he was probably quite a heel to deal with.
After quite a while of doing well, Jacob gets up and scoots out in the middle of the night. Running again. Both times he has been successful and has, legally, rightfully gained what is his. But he runs. I think maybe Jacob is living the quote, “Who I am hates who I’ve been.” He’s running and running, trying to escape his heel-ed-ness. He’s coming home now, because God told him to and Jacob has at least learned not to go against that. But at the fjord of the river (i’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence), before going home, Jacob is forced to deal with who it is that he has become. Wrestling with God, he is forced to admit, “I’m a heel.”
There’s no more running, and now there’s no more wrestling. Because when Jacob finally admits what he’s been all these years, God says, “not anymore, you’re not. Now you’re Israel.” God-wrestler.
After this, the tone of Jacob’s life begins to change. Slowly. I mean, it’s a process. He meets up with Esau, there is reconciliation, a theme that Jacob previously didn’t know how to deal with in an honoring way (hence all the running). Esau essentially tells him, “come on home.” Jacob agrees, but it takes him a while to get there. There’s at least another chapter before he finally gets home, as he settles in for a bit at a few different places (and his sons completely annihilate one of villages- I think they carry some of their father’s issues). He hasn’t completely changed, but has instead followed the path of his grandpa and calls his wife his sister. Some lessons take time i guess.
But finally Jacob comes home after a very meaningful meeting with God in Bethel. It’s been quite a journey.
A bunch of striking themes within the life of Jacob. I think it might take a few more reads ;). There’s the issue of conflict and resolution and reconciliation. But most interesting to me is Jacob’s issues with himself. I can identify. Sometimes you just don’t like who you’ve been or who you are. You try to call yourself by different names and take on the life of the people that you wish you were. But that’s not who you truly are. And when you’re tired of running, you wrestle. And, finally, at the end of the fight, you just admit it. “I’ve been a heel all my life.”
And that’s when God says, “That’s not who you are any more. I am going to give you a name, that’s how you’ll be known, and that’s how you should live.” Sometimes it takes a while to get used to the new name, and you’ll always know what you’ve been. Other people will know who you’ve been. But i guess this just begins the journey of learning to live as the person God has called you to be, rather than what you’ve always known to do.