“I want you to wrestle with the Bible. Do it. Wrestle until, Jacob-like, you walk with a limp ever after, and you receive the blessing of the Lord.” Sarah Bessey, from Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women.
Hello friend! I’ve brewed some fresh coffee. I’m drinking mine black, but I have cream and sugar if you’d like. Have a seat. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m no theologian, but I’m good at research, and I’d like to really study the bible and what it says about women. I’d like to pick it apart and Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist is just the place to start, I think. I’ll also bring in some Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans to help my research.
I read the above quote and started thinking about it. What comes to mind when we hear the word “wrestle”? It’s kind of violent, right? I mean, even the WWF stuff is crazy to watch. People in costumes dancing around like weirdos, breaking chairs over each other’s heads.
I love words, really digging in and dissecting their meaning, so I did what any English prof would do. I consulted the dictionary. When I looked up “wrestle”, I found that it is an intransitive verb. Here’s the first definition:
1: “to contend by grappling with and striving to trip or throw an opponent down or off-balance.”
What? Is Sarah suggesting we try to take the Bible down? We’re supposed to trip it up and throw it down–knocking it off-balance? How is that even possible? While I doubt we can “trip up” the Bible, I think it’s ok to inspect it from all angles, and to turn it upside if necessary. Let’s look at the second most common definition.
2 To combat an opposing tendency or force, as in wrestling with his conscience. So this definition would suggest that the Bible is a an opposing tendency or force? While I think that the Bible does sometimes create opposition, both within and in the world…maybe this is closer after all.
Wait, before we decide, let’s look at the last usage.
A word of caution: Debate can often get violent, and words can wound. It’s not for the faint of heart.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sarah’s mentioning of the story of Jacob wrestling with the Lord. This might really point to the sweaty, painful power struggle between two ideas, that is not over with quickly or easily, and somebody is going to be hurt in the process. It might be a deep hurt that causes a lifelong disability, a noticeable reminder of what happens when we take on sensitive topics.
Here’s the story she’s referencing. It’s in Genesis 32:24:
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,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip,because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
Are you ready? I’ve got the Icy Hot ready and some Tylenol, just in case.