When I read biblical stories, I picture the personality of the characters. In Jacob’s case, this isn’t difficult. Jacob’s name, the story tells us, means “supplanter” or “heel grabber.” Since neither of these definitions translates easily into my lingo, I imagine the action of the baby Jacob jerking at Esau’s heel and label Jacob “the Jerk.”
Up to this hour in Jacob’s life, I think “Jerk” fits him nicely. Yet finally, on the banks of the Jabbok, this person meets God in an astonishing confrontation. Call it wrestling with his conscience, or with his record of “jerkdom,” or with his relationship with God, or with his eternal purpose—call it what you will, the contest is fierce.
The question is, does “that night” (v. 21) with God create any change in the Jerk? Does this experience make him a different human being? It’s the question we ask of anyone’s so-called religious experience. As the saying goes, “It’s not how high you jump, but how straight you walk once you land.”
When the first light of tomorrow creeps over the Jabbok, the Jerk has a new name to live up to. He is now Israel, meaning “God strives.” Though he limps, he also walks straight. These are surely the gifts God longs to give to all who take God’s encounters seriously and who persist in the struggles, wrestling until the true blessing descends. However disappointing our lives have been, we can be changed; we can be different. God makes it so!
In all likelihood, you are not a Jerk, but are you truly open to change? What tells you that you are willing to become more of the person God needs you
God, may my name signify integrity to all who speak it. May the way I live make someone think well of you. Amen.