Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sleep Wrestling

My newest spiritual practice is to read a daily entry of Celtic Treasure: Daily Scripture and Prayer by J. Philip Newell each morning.

This morning's entry focused on the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God. In the context of the story (Genesis 28-33), I remember the complexity of human relationships. The parental favoritism shown by Abraham toward their son Esau and Sarah toward their son Jacob. The brotherly feud between Esau and Jacob. The trickery, manipulation, and power struggles. And in the midst of the human messiness, Jacob wrestles with God. In his sleep, Jacob is worried about confronting his brother Esau and he wrestles with his fears and with God. By the end he's desperately asking for God's blessing and protection in the day ahead.

Reading this story this morning is the first time I've really connected with Jacob's wrestling in his sleep. My own worries and fears can dominate my subconscious and take over my dream world. In these dreams, I find my subconscious working out daily interactions and processing deep emotional issues. It feels like wrestling with my fears and with God. A wrestling match between my own free will and with God's will.  I wrestle by wanting to cling so strongly to the control I have (or perceive to have) and my own desires for how things should work out.

At the end of the scripture passage, Jacob does encounter his brother. And the big event he feared turns into a joyous event of reconciliation. Jacob, wounded by his fitful slumber, limps toward Esau and Esau runs to him, kisses him and together they weep. Jacob says to his brother, "Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God, for you have welcomed me back with love."

Waking from a fitful night's rest is never fun. It sometimes makes the day ahead incredibly hard to face. Reflection on this scripture has made me ready to look for the ways the events I fear become events full of joy. For God's will is always better than my own.

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