A few years ago I lived for a time with a young woman who was 27 and done with singlehood. She’d just watched her best friends get married in a matter of months, she wasn’t dating anyone, she had only some rather new friends and a very young and very idealistic and very stand-offish new roommate (yours truly) to turn to for comfort, and she really, really, really wanted to meet someone, fall in love, get married, and start a family.
At the ripe old age of 23, I regarded her struggles with mingled feelings of compassion, anger at her situation, and exasperation with her for being in such a funk about it. Life has other things to offer, hasn’t it, for those of us who are still single. The ever elusive “future spouse” will come along in God’s good time, and it’s no good hounding him for it. Those were my thoughts, and tended to be my murmured condolences when she came to me to talk things out.
I remember thinking at that time that my roommate was like Jacob, wrestling with God.
Now I am 27 and single. I’ve been through about seven roommates since that lovely lady and I parted ways, and I’ve been on a number of dates and made multiple new friends. I’ve moved on in my career. I’ve learned a whole lot about myself, including a lot of things I wish I didn’t know. And for the first time in my adult life, I’ve caught myself in a bit of a funk this year — not because I want a husband and kids necessarily (I’m growing increasingly unsure that I do), but because I want to be committed to something that matters and I’m not. And I don’t feel old, not at all, but 30 is coming, people. That feels somehow momentous.
So today’s first reading splashed over me like a bucket of ice cold water. That old roommate, you’ll be glad to learn, has gotten married and is now expecting a first child. Now it seems to be my turn to wrestle with God.
And it’s funny, the way he bestows his blessings. He may have to knock your hip out of its socket, but if you ask him hard enough he’ll give you what you ask for — and more than you’d ever dare to ask, even though you dare to wrestle him.
And I find myself also musing on Sarah and Abraham, barren and old, who finally received God’s blessing. But that blessing would have come with all sorts of unpleasantness, especially for Sarah. Being pregnant isn’t easy for any woman, but for a woman who’s 90? It could have killed her.
In the end, God doesn’t promise not to hurt us or to leave us screaming and beating our fists for a time against the ground. He just promises to help us through it.
It’s when I’m faced with this laughing, vibrant, unpredictable, masculine God that I’m most afraid for myself, but confident that all will at last be well. I may break a bone here and there, but I’ll be okay.
Sooner or later, we all have to wrestle with God, because that’s how we discover how real he is to us, and how twisted our own wills can be. Sometimes it takes violence to bring us into line with him.
But isn’t it a beautiful beginning?