32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba,* Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob 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. 26Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28Then the man* said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,* for you have striven with God and with humans,* and have prevailed.’ 29Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel,* saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
Jacob is the ankle grabber, the loveable thief. The one who pulls himself up…by another’s bootstrap. Its Jacob, the man who got his inheritance by cheating his father and stealing his brother’s. This is Jacob, who despite that cheating, finds God. The man who, when he sees Jacob’s ladder says “I didn’t expect to see God here.”
Jacob sees God, and knows God, and wrestles with God. How this happens we don’t really know. One minute Jacob is traveling, the next he’s wrestling God.
And, Jacob is winning, when God asks Jacob’s name, and Jacob confesses. Confession is presenting your whole self, your good and bad to God. Its admitting who you are, naming yourself to God.
But the interesting thing about confession, is that you can’t confess yourself to God, without being changed by God. Its a Murphy’s Law kind of thing. God asks, Jacob’s name, and Jacob admits its cheater, not a name to be proud of. Jacob confesses himself, his name and then literally and figuratively breaks under the strain of it.
Then, it changes, God says “No, now your name is Israel: God prevails.” God prevails and Jacob is changed by his struggle with God.
What’s amazing is that this struggle happens many times in the Bible. In the time Jesus prays in the Garden it going on both with the disciples and Jesus himself.
Jesus struggles with God, asking if he could not do it. (Don’t ask me how, but Jesus is struggling with God).
The disciples too are struggling, struggling to stay awake while Jesus prays. They are struggling to be the friends and disciples that Jesus is calling them to be. Up all night, full of wine, the disciples struggle with God.
In the end, though, Jesus gives himself to full confession. Saying “your will be done.”
The gift of faith is just the beginning. Struggle and confession are a part of the practice of faith.
That is what we are doing when we confess ourselves to God. Claiming ourselves as children and belonging to God. We struggle with claiming who we are, confessing ourselves so that God’s will can be done, so we can be the people God envisions us to be.
In that way, God calls us into being, by our very names