Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pride = Anxiety (Part 1)

"I trust you, God...but..."
I've said that so many times. There have been slight variations, but it's always the same idea: I prayed to God for something and told Him how I trusted Him...but still worried He wouldn't come through.

Or...worried He wouldn't come through the way I wanted Him to.

I've come across 2 stories recently that tie together so beautifully with this theme.

First is Jacob and Esau.

I was at a women's retreat last week that taught the story of Jacob & Esau. It's an "oldie but a goodie" so many have heard it.

But there is SO MUCH that I had never seen in those chapters before.

If you struggle with anxiety, I hope you'll get the same things out of them that I have. They've been a huge comfort and wake up call.

Jacob and Esau were twins. When they were born, Esau was born first with Jacob holding onto his brother Esau's foot. He was named "Jacob" which means "He grasps the heal or he deceives." Perhaps where we get the phrase today of "he was pulling my leg" to infer someone was telling a lie.

For his entire life, Jacob was angry that Esau was the oldest son, and therefore received the father's blessing. Esau (and his mother) put together a scheme to trick the father (Isaac) into giving Jacob the blessing, thus stealing it from his brother Esau.

Looking at the same words over years can make them flat and static. But, if you go back and re-read, putting  yourself in the place of the "characters," it's amazing the new perspective you can gain.

Jacob was obsessed with receiving his father's blessing. So obsessed, that he hatched a plan to deceive his father, and once Esau found out, he set out to kill Jacob after their father died. Their mother sent Jacob away for his own safety, where he lived with his uncle for 20 years.

And I thought I had family drama.

It wasn't until those 20 years later that he was traveling back home and heard that Esau was coming after him with 400 men. Esau intended to settle the score. Apparently, 2 decades had done nothing to dampen his anger.

It's in the next few hours--the hours between Jacob finding out Esau was coming after him and when he and his brother finally meet face-to-face-- that I learned more about myself and my anxiety than I ever could have imagined I would.

During that time away, Jacob had been very successful and had plenty. The blessing his father had given him, even though it was given under false pretenses and not meant for Jacob, was still over Jacob. Coming home, Jacob had much in the way of animals, family, and servants.

As Jacob gets word that Esau is coming for him...with an army and full of pent-up rage from the past 20 years...

Genesis 32:7 says, "In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups..."

In great fear and distress...

The Message version says:

"Jacob was scared. Very scared. Panicked, he divided his people..."

He was terrified. That night, he prayed to God reminding Him how He had promised to prosper Jacob and make his descendants "like the sand in the sea".

After he prayed, he tried to sleep. And apparently, the night got the better of him with too much time to simmer and think.

Instead of resting in the promises of God, the very promises he just recounted to the Lord Himself, Jacob hatched a plan.

In his plan, he divided up over 500 of his best animals as a peace offering to Esau. He divided his family up in a certain way and rehearsed with them what to say when they encountered Esau's men. Some may call this a bribe...and I think I will.

He's got this.

He knows God has promised to protect him, but just in case...

And then he stays back at camp.

After sending all of his livestock and his wives and maidservants ahead of him.

It's there that Jacob wrestles with the angel of God.

From out of nowhere, out of the dark, Jacob is attacked and wrestled with this angel all night.

"When the man [the angel] saw that he could not overpower him [Jacob], he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."

Then the man demanded that Jacob let him go.

I think in that moment, it became clear to Jacob that this wasn't an ordinary man. He realized that the man he had been wrestling with all night had the power to kill him in one touch.

Jacob demands the man's blessing.

And the angel does the craziest thing...he asks Jacob what his name is.

Now, stop with me here and realize something...

If this man is an angel...and I think Jacob was quickly brought up to speed with that information...why is he asking Jacob what his name is? Surely, he had some idea who he was?

The next few lines tell us:

"'Jacob', he answered.
Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'"

You see, Jacob--this man who for his whole life had counterfeited everything about himself, even going so far as to steal his brother's identity and blessing, who was even named "Deceiver," had finally come face-to-face with who he really was. 

He wrestled with that angel until that angel forced him to admit who he really was.

No pretenses. No counterfeiting. No lies.

Just truth.

It wasn't until that point, when Jacob was at his lowest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, that he was able to acknowledge before God who he really was.

Because the angel had wrenched his hip out of the socket, Jacob had a limp. I'm sure every step was excruciating.

The next part of this story shows Jacob's family still separated out in a methodical manner.

But Jacob is at the front.

As he sees his brother coming on the horizon with his 400 men, he walks on ahead...and he bows before his brother along the way 7 times.

He bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows.

Each step like a knife through his hip.

Each labored movement as he lowers himself to the ground and struggles to stand back up reminding him of the wrestling match he had with God.

Each searing pain met with gritted teeth and a determination that he knew now who he really was.

And who he wasn't.

And do you know what happened?

Verse 4 of Genesis 32 says,

"But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."

Jacob then presented the gifts he had prepared to Esau.

And It's when I read those words that I realize I am Jacob.

I often take matters into my own hands when I don't trust God to handle it or to fulfill His promises.

When I don't like the path I see myself on, I change course to something I'd rather instead of going the way I'm meant to.

When I fear that things aren't going my way, I pray to God for His protection and guidance with one breath and devise my own plan with the other.

Like Jacob, when I get wind that trouble is headed my direction, I want to trust God, but I doubt God's sincerity or willingness to follow-through.

I forget or set aside His sovereignty in favor of my comfort and peace of mind.

But, also like with Jacob, the irony of that is, in an effort to feel more secure, I step outside of trusting God, and that's when I lose all comfort and peace of mind.

When I try to be someone I'm many cases that's God...I lose my real identity.

When I go the way God wants me to Jacob finally did when he walked ahead of everyone else...that's when I find the greatest courage and peace, even in the midst of pain.

We may not wrestle with an actual angel, but how many of us wrestle God in our minds? How many of us refuse to let God tell the story and direct the show, and acknowledging before Him who we really are?

And, more importantly, who God really is.

How many of us don't trust God to really protect us and be there for us and prosper us?

I am raising my hand and waving it frantically in the air!

I don't.

But here I come, limping, ready to give this gift to God. The gift of control--or the illusion that I have it.

I'm ready to give it back and tell him I am Jacob.

In that moment, when I fully acknowledge who I am before God, He will tell me who I have become.

I am Israel. Because I have wrestled with man and God.

See Post #1 HERE
See Post #2 HERE
See Post #3 HERE
See Post #4 HERE
See Post #5 HERE
See Post #6 HERE
See Post #8 HERE.

*I am not a medical or mental health professional. If, at any time, you contemplate hurting yourself or someone else, seek help immediately. There is no shame in seeking help. A list of resources can be found HERE.

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