This week, I’ve been wrestling with Jacob.
Jakobus, to be precise. Or James, if you want a better idea of whom I’m talking about.
Our church is doing Beth Moore’s study on the book of James. One of the first things she explained was that James, the half-brother of Jesus, would have actually been named Jakobus. “James” is an English-ized version of the Hebrew here. Jacob, of course, is the patriarch of the Twelve Tribes … of Israel, which became *his* new name after God got ahold of him.
So anyway, there I was, having finished the first week’s homework the previous day, when a friend texted me late Saturday to say, “I went ahead in the homework, and boy are you going to love it! DON’T LOOK!”
Well, it was 11:30 at night but the amazing thing is, I didn’t look. Week two, day one’s homework wasn’t supposed to be done until Tuesday.
I’m kindof a rule follower like that.
I just lay there ’til I remembered what came next. Which didn’t take long.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.~James 1:2-4
“Seriously?” I said to the Lord, eyes wide open. “Is this where we’re going? AGAIN?”
Those verses are some of the most familiar to me in all the word. Written next to them in my Bible are the words, “1990 God’s words for me, from Carolyn.”
Leave it to a mother-in-law to have given me a message from the Lord that’s still resounding 22 years later.
She’d spent a weekend in prayer for the family. At the time, I wasn’t even technically part of it. But there were several of us whom God had sortof grafted in. I was 20 years old (don’t do the math, it’s complicated) and Rob and I had just started dating. That weekend, God had given her scriptures for everyone in the family, and He’d paired verses with couples together (slightly bizarre, but true) and they were spot on.
Go back and look at mine again, would you? And now, think: how many of you, at twenty, would like to have been given those as your special scriptures? I mean, seriously?
Let me tell you something: you’d like it even less if you had any idea how long they’d be ringing through your life.
As I lay there in bed that night, suddenly not tired anymore, I also knew why I’d had such guarded anticipation for this study. During the video session I’d felt this warning in my spirit: something big was about to happen, and honestly, I felt headed for the woodshed. The funny thing is, I was glad of it.
When you’ve walked with God for a long time, sometimes you hit seasons where you feel like you aren’t doing much changing. That’s the way I’ve been feeling for far too long. Change is in order; needed, necessary.
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France
And so it began that night, even though it wasn’t yet Tuesday. The words were already on my heart.
So were the trials. This, this month/week/day/season is the most difficult of all my life. Relationally, financially, practically–it’s all incredibly … trial-ish. My stress level is so high that if someone pours a glass of (anything) in another room, the noise makes me want to scream.
It’s really bad.
So I knew this scripture was demanding all my attention. “All right. Why?” I asked. “Why, Lord; why is difficulty the defining tone of my life? Why does it seem we go around these same mountains, these exact same struggles, over and over and over?”
I wasn’t expecting to hear much. But all of a sudden I had this whole word picture/thought in my head, and I knew the answer to my question.
Have you ever had a child run to you, having had a wipeout of some sort, and their knees bleed testimony of the fall? They wail and cry, and you investigate and frown. The scrapes are dirty, and there are bits of gravel in deep. You hold the child and wipe tears and give them a popsicle. And then you have to clean out the wound.
And they don’t get it. Why are you hurting them more than they already hurt? When the tiny rocks are really deep you wield tweezers and pry and sweep until every little bit has been removed. Have you ever quit before you were finished?
As the child wails on your lap, flinches at every piece, hasn’t your heart broken and haven’t you sometimes patted the child on the head, put the tweezers down, and taken a break to allow time for them to calm down a bit before they lost it completely? Haven’t you sometimes pulled away from the healing because the child could only see the hurt, and you could only feel the child’s pain?
That’s how God showed me He’s felt.
He’s bent over my life, trying to get at something ground down deep inside that causes me pain. He’s allowed trial and difficulty, His tools, to cut and dig.
And I have cried.
And He has looked on my heart and kept my tears in a bottle and listened to my wails and He has stopped the work.
Before He was finished.
Before I was free.
Because His heart is pained when I hurt, and He couldn’t watch me cry and writhe any longer.
And now I hear an invitation that both frightens and excites me.
It goes something like this: If I will learn, this time, to truly consider it all joy … if I can hold still, and not cry (quite so loudly, anyway) … if I can trust Him because I know His heart and I believe He is faithful and I am looking far enough ahead to believe that He is working for good … if I will “let endurance have its perfect work …” He will finish the job this time. And I will be more mature, and more complete, and I will lack nothing.
I’m trying to say yes.