My high school did not have wrestling, so I never experienced it myself. I admire the sport’s required speed, strength, and discipline, however. One of my college football coaches who did wrestle taught me that, in Kansas at least, it’s not called wrestling, it’s properly pronounced “rasslin”.
My closest experience with rasslin came through my son, Jake. He was in middle school and I was watching his first match. One thing about the sport became crystal clear to me when Jake stepped onto the mat. When you wrestle, you. are. completely. alone. I had been to plenty of Jake’s athletic contests: football, baseball, basketball, soccer, even swimming. I generally had fun watching him (okay, the overactive parents screaming next to me put a serious damper on the experience, but I managed).
This was different.
I had just one thought, “Please, oh please, don’t let him get pinned.”
Let’s take a trip back in time to a one-of-a-kind, Greco-Roman style match. It is described in Genesis 32.
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob’s reality was that he’d spent his entire life wrestling. He first wrestled with Esau, his brother, as a twin in the womb. This continued through his early adulthood when he swindled his older brother’s first-born birthright from him with a bowl of stew. He lied to his father, Isaac, to receive the attached blessing. He left home and struggled for 20 years with his Uncle Laban for his wives, his livelihood, and, finally, his freedom. Genesis 32 finds Jacob once again at odds with Esau as Jacob attempts to return to his birthplace.
This is the point where God steps in and wrestles Jacob Himself. It is the turning point where he stops being the deceiver, the cheater (Jacob), and becomes the man he was born to be (Israel), father of 12 tribes, patriarch of promise.
My reality is the same and, I expect, so is yours. I spent half a lifetime wrestling with the world trying to be great. I then grappled with my past, my regret, my sin that resulted from this constant, selfish striving. The truth is that there was an endless number of matches stretched out before me until I finally decided to meet God in the middle of the mat. Alone. Exposed. Utterly over matched.
Here’s what I experienced on that mat. At the exact moment of my exhaustion, when I had no strength to continue, when I’d been wounded, the unimaginable occurred. Jesus stepped in, took my place, and suffered the humiliation of being pinned on my behalf. This is grace.
Listen. Like Jacob, like me, you will keep wrestling with the world until you accept your pending match with God. You must walk onto that mat alone and face your sin, your shame, your brokenness. The unbelievable truth is that your opponent, the God of justice and righteousness, has only grace in store for you. He loves you so much that He chose to send His Son, Jesus Christ, in your earned place of judgment.
It’s time to rassle God. Get going and submit, finally. An amazing victory awaits.