South Dakota and I have been
wrestling as Jacob wrestled at Peniel.
|it does look a bit like parts of South Dakota, doesn't it?|
Do you know the story? You probably have heard parts of it or think you know it. It is but a few verses in Genesis 32, it reads:
24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved."
Maybe it sounds dramatic to you that I compare my time here in South Dakota to this story in Genesis. Without knowing the depths of despair I have felt, the aloneness, the fear – you would be right. Jacob was afraid of his brother. He was facing an uncertain future. He was removed (in his case by his own wishes) from his family and all things familiar.
I think Jacob faced himself that night. I think he dealt with all sorts of memories and life issues. Whatever or whoever it was that appeared to Jacob, this experience changed Jacob forever. Wrestling with self is wrestling with God. It’s asking those tough questions. It’s asking the why and facing painful truth that causes you to look at yourself in truth.
I think South Dakota has caused me to limp. I know South Dakota has blessed me. Yes, I really did say that. In the midst of all my complaining and whining that was really the expression of pain, I’ve been changed and therefore, I have been blessed. I’ve called South Dakota a crucible. It has been. Yet, it has changed me in ways I am sure I still don’t realize.
I tried so hard not to connect and yet I cried in desperation for connection. The harsh winds of disappointment seemed unrelenting over the last three years. The coldness of aloneness left me paralyzed. I’ve honestly thought I would die as the cold and winds continued. Springs were far too short. Summer brought confusion rather than relief. Fall came quickly and winter seemed never ending.
I’m better though. I’ve wrestled with South Dakota and we both won. South Dakota changed me. Changed me forever and for better. I’ve wrestled with myself. I’ve seen once again that God knows best, and will bring me through the harshness of life. My life has been preserved. I’m ready for the future in a way I haven’t been in a very, very long time. I’m actually thankful for this limp, for it means I’ve survived the crucible of encounter with the face of the Lord.