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And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him till the morning.  And he saw that he prevailed not against him; and he touched the broad part of his thigh, and the broad part of Jacob’s thigh was benumbed in his wrestling with him.  And he said to him, Let me go, for the day has dawned; but he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.  And he said to him, What is thy name? and he answered, Jacob.  And he said to him, Thy name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; for thou hast prevailed with God, and shalt be mighty with men. [Genesis 32]

Well, so then Israel means something like “one who wrestles with God” or at the very least prevails in his struggles with divinity. The early Church father’s, who by and large were not of Hebrew ancestry, read that through Christ we are all striving to shed our inner Egyptian and cross the Jordan to be come Israelites. The connection of out spiritual state with Israel can be quite plainly seen in Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses. So ... let’s take this and see what it might mean for the American Christian today? What does it mean for the individual Christian. How do you wrestle with God?

Back when I was at University, in the 80s and not as I tell my children when the dinosaurs roamed the plains, most of my study was concentrated in maths and physics which essentially was to wrestle with Nature. Which was to ask, how was the world constructed? How can we understand it? How do we interact with it on a fundamental level? However, these are the big questions. People working in the field don’t work directly on the large questions. At any one time, people are working on smaller, more tractable questions which on getting answers will move the larger communities understanding of the big picture forward ... or at the very least sharpen our understanding of what we don’t know.

Similarly, it seems to me, we as Christians are called to wrestle in exactly that way with God. How do we understand God? How are we to interact with him and with others? How to understand and work toward Theosis/Sanctification?

So, here’s my question for the gentle reader. What smaller questions are you working on as you wrestle? What knots are you trying to untangle?

More on: Gospel, The Church

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