“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!!!!!!!!!” were the repeated screams of agony coming from the one football player who was still on the ground after the play. The gaggle of bodies who impacted each other had sorted themselves out and rose to their feet to go to huddle for the next play while he did not. This person was unable to rise due to the excruciating pain radiating from his dislocated hip. Somehow it popped out of socket with that last group tackle and now the leg of the damaged hip was both in spasm and shaking as his entire body quivered in anguish. This is was my senior year of high school football, playing our rivals at their school and I was witness to an awful injury. Last I saw of him, he wasn’t an opposing player, just a teenager being carted off to an awaiting ambulance, surrounded by concerned friends and family with his game and season over.
The hip joint is one of, if not the most stable joints in the body. It takes massive force to dislocate it and the need for treatment is immediate as permanent damage can occur in the muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerves of the area. Untreated, this can result in a degree of handicap, pronounced restriction in movement, coordination, strength and balance. We need healthy hips in order to move efficiently. It must be daunting to navigate crowds, icy streets and narrow staircases with a damaged hip, the loss of required dexterity has to be frustrating and scary.
So why in the world would God target this area?
I write this blog entry from a place of pain, frustration, concern and anger if I am to be honest. I am a raw Christian, one who does not paint over my emotions and pray away the truth of how I feel about things, nor do I apologize for it The skipping, butterflies, rainbows and sunshine aspects of my faith that are displayed by some is not in my. I have never subscribed to being a peppy, spunky, bubbly Christian who is high on faith and hope. I am not mocking anyone but life is cold and hard and it is difficult to smile when there is such as heavy weight to bear.
There is a major difference from when things are challenging in a way common to life and when it feels like God is personally putting the screws to you. Like God is taking time to come to your location and brings a pain uncommon to anything else.
Jacob in Genesis was a man of we’ll say “developing ethics and morals”. He operated in a way that was under the table, we’d say he was a crude businessman with how he went about things. First Jacob worked his twin brother over, next his father-in-law and then later in life, despite his success, he still feared the comeuppance that he believed was heading his way from his past actions. Bottom line, he (we) KNOW when we do wrong and understand that there is a price to pay for it. In spite of all of that, Jacob had a mission and call on his life from God as we all do. No matter how we move we have a call but not all of us answer the call.
So now Jacob is reuniting with his brother who he hadn’t seen in decades. When last you saw your twin brother and he made it clear that he wanted to kill you, you done messed up. So Jacob, thinking this beef is still fresh and it’s about to go down, the splits up his family into smaller groups so if he gets attacked by his brother that they all wouldn’t get hurt or killed. To his credit, he didn’t run, he prepared for it, taking it how it came. So the night before, he’s alone, scared, worried, he’s in the dark place of the mind. All his family, wives, children, servants and wealth were now at risk. Everything he cared about would be potentially forfeit within the next few hours and there was nothing he could do about it. This is your supervisor somberly saying: “Come into my office, we need to talk.” This is the day he had been dreading.
And this is when gawd, Hallelujah, stepped IN – Ha! – (old-school preacher unction) and looked at his situation – Ha! – and moooooooooooved – Ha! – just like He did getting Gilligan off the island – Ha! – during his darkest hour – Ha! – during the coldest cold – Ha! – and the deepest deep –Ha! -. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawd took His mighty hand – Ha! – and reached down – Ha! – and went to Jacob – Ha! – and…
…brought even more pain.
It says a man came to wrestle with Jacob after he was along. I’ve wrestled and grappled – absolutely exhausting. So now this Jacob is emotionally busted, physically alone and complete unsure of what is about to happen to him and his family is now dealing with some nonsense of someone rolling up and wrestling with him. This happened all night, until sunrise. Dude was trying to fold up Jacob and finally after hours when He couldn’t beat him, He hit Jacob with special move that was a blow heavy that took his hip out of socket. He brought excruciating pain to Jacob to break him as if Jacob wasn’t already broken. As if Jacob didn’t have enough problems this came right to his front door, unannounced package, please sign here, this is for you. A gift of absolutely sheer, debilitating pain in the middle of his pain.
So dude with a bad attitude runs down on some guy by sitting by himself, deep in his own feelings, alone in a camp and starts beefing with him and fighting with him for reasons unknown. When he can’t win, he hits him with enough force to pop out of alignment one of the strongest and most secure joints of his physical body, bringing pain that is borderline unbearable and indescribable and now is telling Jacob to let him go because day was coming. Like you brought the beef and now you want to leave? No you don’t get to leave.
Jacob, by his actions, DEMANDED satisfaction for his ordeal, he recognized that something bigger was playing in the moment. I think we miss it too many times that we go through something and just strive to survive. “This too shall pass.” A Persian adage which is a phrase which bears truth as life will go on, but it is a phrase that has shades of passivity. It is not enough anymore, at least for me, to simple just arrive to the other side of a challenge, especially if it is one that absolutely wreaks my life and those so permanently like in the case of Jacob’s hip.
If you believe in God, if you are of faith and of hope then you already know that these situations in life are here to better you, reveal who you are and grow you. I need to know that my setback was really another step in preparation, but the only way to do that is by holding on to the One even as they are hurting you. We lose it because we let go and in that we are broken and separated from what we need to recover. If God can break and hurt then He can restore and heal, we just have to hold on and have faith all the same.
My question when I go through is why did God create me, build and design me in a way that requires the great pain of being broken and processed in order to get me ready for what God has me lined up for. Basically I’m asking why didn’t God just have me come out the womb ready to go, why not make a complete product before you sell it? Does God not know what He’s doing or does He enjoy watching us hurt? Why not just start from the end?
The answer that I came up with lies in the particular aspect of God in us which is the free will to do and be. We are not robots, there is no celestial assembly line, no heavenly factory which produces humanity. Having a destiny and a design for purpose is not the same as a robotic programming directive which cannot be deviated from. Machines we are not. We choose, life is choices and choices is life as my friend says, and that is our greatest power and privilege. Now what we choose to be and how we choose to do it is made all the more valuable when it comes at cost. Conflict and pain are inevitable in this life but it is funny how it never is a struggle to choose that which brings pleasure.
If God taught and molded us by pleasure, how would we really view Him? Most people I know do not like to see spoiled kids, they like to see respectful and humble kids. Now those who are willfully ignorant on how they spoil their kids and how it actually sets them back and doesn’t quite make the world a better place…that is a separate topic completely which I will not address. I will address the concept of order and honor. Give someone what they want, when they want it and how, eventually they will lose respect for your position. Even though it is the giver who possesses the resources to give, meaning that order comes from the giver, that they have the actual power, the recipient will eventually think it to be the opposite – they are in charge. Honor will be lost and purpose along with it. When honor and purpose go, the resulting will be someone who is indeed well fed lacking drive, resolve, capacity and is completely useless.
Purpose requires passion and passion can actually be defined as pain. In Jacob’s case his purpose had been revealed to him long prior to the situation he found himself in. He was carrying the burden of purpose from his grandfather and his father and now to him – this requires something…everything. So Jacob refuses to let this man go, recognizing that it was God in a form that was physically accessible but he makes a spiritual demand which was to bless him, even though He caused excruciating pain. Jacob recognized something bigger than him and greater than the injury, he didn’t do what many of us do which is to worship pain.
We put pain on the throne and both brag about and criticize it. We pride ourselves to others on how much we’ve taken and kept on coming through. War scars are badges of honor. We also become consumed and defined by it, we lose sight because of the pain and let go of what is more important. Pain becomes a constant friend, one by which we know we are alive. But we are also confined by it as our sole focus and definition of success becomes the alleviating or eliminating pain and less about pushing through to embrace the purpose of the pain.
Jacob, which means trickster, lost physical dexterity and gained a place with God and an alignment with his purpose both due to pain. He acquired a permanent limp and a new identity – Israel which means Prince with God. In looking at current times with the slowdown of life for many people due to the coronavirus restrictions, Israel experienced the same, as was now physically limping and requiring a staff. It took him more time to do what he needed to do and he couldn’t do it alone anymore. He had to teach others to execute what he was perfectly capable of doing alone prior to the incident.
Last I checked Prince is title of royalty and rule. Perhaps Israel had to slow down in order to learn how to rule. When you teach, you expand. When you educate, you grow. This growth and expansion applies to both the teacher and the students. I believe that God will cause things to slow you down to grow you up. He will cause and allow pain to decrease your speed and increase your dependency in order to establish the new pace: God’s pace for what is next in your life.
Do I agree with this method? Absolutely not. I think it could have been done better because pain hurts and hurt sucks. To keep it blunt and raw, I would think the God of all existence, of all knowledge could find a better way to go about things. But I am not God so I am lacking all knowledge and I am therefore ignorant of the bigger picture in which the amount of my days wouldn’t even amount to a single grain of sand in the desert. I do know this, that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward IF and only IF it is part of the plan of God.
We do stupid stuff and try to drag God into it, He’s unbothered by it, whether we praise Him or not, pay tithes or not, go to church or not, post Scriptures or not. God does not bless all things, attitudes and walks of life, He blesses what He finds Himself in, so don’t go believing that you can move how you want and God’s hand is on it. We can be part time believers but God is who He is full time. He is still exactly who He is with zero diminishing of his splendor. So it is we, not God, who have both everything to gain and everything to lose in this scenario.
Final word. Limp on, do not quit. Hold onto to God because ultimately if we stay with Him we cannot lose. And get to work, we’re here for a reason. Let’s go!
*** I began this entry a few months prior to finishing it. It is half and half, written from two different mindsets. Please allow yourself to grow and be authentic during it all, God understands and would rather an authentic you then a fake you. ***