Loving With A Limp
Long have we been enamoured at the notion of standing in the presence of God (and living to tell the tale). Mankind has a long, and because of the nature of the experience, well documented history of those who have claimed to have met with God and returned to tell their story. In recent years, this love affair with the ‘other side’ has been the seedbed for an industry of which, alarmingly, Christians are the greatest consumers. Tim Challies has written a helpful overview of this phenomenon which can be read at his site, “Greetings from Heaven: A Modern History of Heaven Tourism”. Most of these stories leave us with the impression that those who’ve come face-to-face with the Almighty and returned were somehow unalterably changed for the better, often with ‘supernatural’ insight and even messages from the heavenly realms. Yet, even a brief survey of the Bible reveals a different tone to the one we encounter on the best-seller lists of your local Christian bookstore.
Maybe the most famous of these ancient heavenly tourists was Jacob. I wonder what his response would be to the endless lines of movie goers shelling out the cash to be entertained by an hour and a half in heaven? Maybe it would be met with a wry smile as he limped off down the sidewalk.
Genesis 32 recounts the time Jacob met with God. In the middle of a stoney creek, God cracked this man’s hard heart. Jacob wanted to get to the other-side, but his most needed destination grappled with him in the gully. Jacob, like many others (maybe even us?), treat God as someone we must pass by to grasp the true prize. But God is the prize. The gospel strips us of our self edifying grandeur and humbles us to breaking point. Yes, an encounter with God will change us, but often not in the way we desire or even expect. Maybe, like Jacob, an encounter with God will leave you living life with a limp. Serving with a limp. Worshiping with a limp. Loving with a limp.
But should that surprise us? That God would inflict hurt to bring healing? Many will not imagine, nor accept, a God who would act this way. But he does, and he remains good. Even as he wrenched Jacob’s hip, even as muscle and fibre tore in ways that would never recover, God was healing a heart that was hard and deceitful, crafting through the pain and discomfort that became Jacob’s constant companion, a man that would birth a nation, and even the Messiah.
As an old man, rising from his bed on a cool morning and feeling the familiar stab of pain, slowly rubbing the feeling back into his aching side, I suspect the wry smile returned to his creased face. Jacob had met with God and had lived to tell the tale. Jacob suffered one pain but embraced a greater joy. God had hurt him that night, but hurt him for his healing.
I’d rather love with a limp than walk tall with a proud and bitter heart.