When I was little, I crashed my bike in the sludge beside the curb – that place where the water puddles and the algae grows. It’s slippery, and I landed all scraped and wet. I kicked the bike. Another time, our “sweet, little pony” bucked me off. I’m pretty sure it hurt my feelings more than my bones. I came up swinging.
Pain has a way of riling our anger – of cloaking the frail as a fighter.
A finger pressed against a still-purple bruise. A cruel or careless word slung through the crumbling wall of a heart still hesitant to trust. A punch landed in the softest flesh. A comment fired deep into weakness exposed. A tragedy. An accident. A loss. A blunt declaration of perfection marred. A searing reminder that this world is not the way it should be. The pain of the piercing is real. It steals our breath and knocks us over.
And I – well – I come up swinging. Fightin’ mad, I’ve heard it called. I wouldn’t argue.
In the movie the Perfect Storm, when one of the wives learns her husband is never coming home, she hits the man who has come to tell her. Swings and swings until he grabs her arms, until he holds her tightly enough that the fight drains out of her and the sadness settles in. And then she cries. And the one her fists had pummeled holds her as she sobs.
I get it.
There are things about this life that make me want to take this world and shake it until it stops hurting the people I love. There are things in these days that make me want to give people a good firm talking to and a swift slap across the face. There is psychotic injustice, and there is blind inconsideration. There is terrifying evil, and there is insensitive neglect. There are natural disasters and unnatural disasters that only leave the wounded to count the casualties. And then there are those days when I am the disaster, when I am the one leaving the wounded in my wake, when I give voice to the evil and hands to the neglect. And I realize that I too need a good firm talking to and a swift slap across the face.
There are times when all this brokenness makes me want to break something.
And I remember: the God of all comfort, the God of all peace, is a God who wrestles (Genesis 32:22-32). As Jacob lay awake that night, he had cause for concern. There was good reason for his insomnia. Jacob had twice deceived his brother, and Esau had been set on destroying him. On this night, years after Jacob had fled Esau’s wrath, Jacob prepared for an early-morning reunion with his twin. What emotions welled within him? What fears echoed? What regrets lingered? What wounds festered? I imagine that all that pain coursed angry through his veins because it says “a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24). That man was God Himself (Genesis 32:30). Anger lends us the kind of stamina it would take to wrestle the Lord all night long.
I guess God knows when we need a good fight.
He came to Jacob in a form that could be wrestled! The Lord Almighty gave Himself to be gripped and strangled, scratched and pinned, elbowed and pinched by a mortal man. Clothed in the muscles and skin of humanity, God punched and squeezed and strong-armed back. Could He not have overtaken Jacob? Could He not have turned the man to dust with a mere exhale? Of course He could have. But the point is He didn’t. God engaged Jacob, neither defeating nor being defeated, but hanging right there with him through the darkest hours of Jacob’s darkest night. In the hazy light of that next morning, Jacob stared into the face of God, and boldly proclaimed, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
Sometime in the night Jacob’s clawing had become clinging.
Some days I can wrestle the crazy of the world into some kind of sense. Some days I can wrestle the crazy of myself into some kind of stable. But other days? Other days those things wrestle me to the ground and leave me laying there helpless. And furious.
And I roll over and find the God of all Creation laying there beside me. And with all the fight I’ve got left in me, I wrestle Him too – just for good measure. And He wrestles back, as though He could not, with the gentlest exhale, turn me to dust. Because He cares greatly. And He understands the crazy that closes in. And He knows.
He knows that sometimes this fightin’ mad woman is just a hurting little girl.
What is it that you are wrestling? What if you wrestled the Lord instead? What if you grabbed onto Him and kicked and poked and beat your fists against the One who is big enough to hold all that anger and all that pain that lies beneath it? What if you fought Him until you ran out of fight?
What if you clawed until it turned to clinging?