There’s a story in the Hebrew Scriptures about a man wrestling with an angel.
I don’t think most of us think of angels in this light. It seems to me that we tend to think of these heavenly creatures as messengers of good news, as guardians, protectors bringing us peace and comfort. We like the kind, easygoing angels.
However, in this story, the angel is not bringing warm milk and cookies, no gentle words of wisdom. This angel arrives challenging the man, Jacob, to an all-night, bone-crushing fight.
Scholars say this is a necessary event for Jacob, who is on his way to meet his estranged and wronged brother, Esau. They say this is the struggle he must have regarding his own guilt about the sibling break-up and his own fear in going eyeball to eyeball with the brother who at their last meeting vowed to kill him if he got the chance.
This story teaches us a lot about the human condition, our frailties and fears, our guilt; and it teaches us a lot about perseverance, about staying in the fight, reminding us that not all of our divine lessons come in sweet, warm embraces.
Sometimes the lessons we have to learn, the ones where we take a true and honest look at ourselves, the serious reckoning with our truths, the things we have to change and let go of and forgive, these angels require a fight and they can take a long time.
And if we look to the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, we must understand that after the fight, after we get our blessing of relief, after we receive a new identity, after finally finding the forgiveness we seek and the change we need, we are not the same.
The angel broke Jacob’s hip, left him with a limp, altering how he forever walked in the world. Long, bloody fights with grief or despair or truth do that to us.
So, just beware the next time you call for divine assistance. Remember that what or who comes may not have gossamer wings and a halo of light. Sometimes they show up to fight.