You know that I love the story of Jacob wrestling with God. You know I love the idea that our faith often feels like wrestling with conflicting ideas. You know that I no longer believe that strong faith has to be equivalent to certainty. As Barbara Brown Taylor said, “I had done everything they had told me to do without arriving at the same confidence that they seemed to possess. I possessed curiosity. I possessed awe. I possessed hope, doubt, and fear, but nothing like certainty about what I believed . . . I discovered that faith did not have the least thing to do with certainty. Insofar as I had any faith at all, my faith consisted of trusting God in the face of my vastly painful ignorance, to gather up all the life in that room and do with it what God alone knew how to do.”
That quote makes me think of the story of Gideon, which I just studied with my sixth grade Sunday School class. Here’s what we learned:
Gideon was the lowliest member of the lowliest clan of Manasseh.
Yet God called Gideon “a mighty warrior.”
Gideon questioned God, asking why the people were suffering if God was truly with them.
God responded by calling Gideon to fight the Midianite army and free the Israelites.
Gideon put God to the test three times.
God passed all three tests and told Gideon to break his father’s altar to Baal.
Gideon did it, but he did it at night because he was weak and afraid of being seen.
God told Gideon to gather men to help him fight.
Gideon armed his men with trumpets and clay pitchers with torches hidden in them. No spears, knives, swords, stones, or whatever cool weapons they had back them. Just trumpets and clay jars.
And Gideon’s men won the battle. With trumpets and clay jars. And with God.
I don’t know about you, but I think Gideon didn’t have much going for him. He was a scaredy-cat. He wasn’t respected. He wasn’t the leader type. He wasn’t the trusting type, either. He was a questioner. He wasn’t sure about God. He was uncertain. Gideon, undoubtedly, was a wrestler. And yet God called him a mighty warrior. God said, “I choose you.” God said, “I’ll help you.”
Sometimes I feel a lot like Gideon. Do you? Do you ever feel like you are the lowliest, loneliest, least person on the planet? Do you ever question God’s workings or the church’s teachings or your own beliefs? Have you ever gone through a time of wrestling? If so, I want to hear your story.
With that, I announce my Lenten series: Wednesday Wrestling. Every Wednesday during Lent I will host a guest blogger telling his/her story about wrestling.
I think Wednesday is the perfect day, because it is the day of the week we have all fought to get to. When we get home on Wednesdays, our hearts are a little lighter: we have made it through hump day. We are relieved that it’s all downhill from here – just two more work days and then the weekend. The fight to get through the week is almost done. (Also: Wednesday starts with W, so you know, alliteration.)
I also think Lent is about wrestling in general. Lent is a time when most Christians give something up. We simplify our lives to focus on what’s important. We experience suffering, of both spirit and body, as a way to remind ourselves of how God suffered for us. It’s a time of self-sacrifice and contemplation. For us Orthodox Christians, we have the physical challenge of fasting meat and dairy for forty days (we’ll see if I make it). And all of it is hard.
I will officially open the series on Monday, March 3, which is Clean Monday, or the beginning of Orthodox Lent. That Wednesday (March 5) the first guest post will go up.
Here are some guiding questions, but feel free to be creative:
When was a time you struggled with something in your life – your faith, a job change, a death of a loved one, a hard decision, a relationship, a church, an illness, etc?
How did it feel? What was it like to be in the midst of wrestling? What was it like to be stuck for a while? How did it change you? How did you mark it so that you would remember that you were changed? Did you find God in the midst of your wrestling?
How did you come out of your wrestling? How did you work through? What was your hope? What saved you? How might you encourage someone going through the same thing? Or – maybe you didn’t work through, and you are right in the muck of it now. Tell us about that.
Mostly I am looking for authentic stories about the hard human stuff that somehow binds us all together. Your stories may or may not be faith-related. You can directly relate your story to Lent if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to. The idea is simply to be open and honest, and to encourage others who may be experiencing the same type of wrestling you have experienced.
If you want to submit a piece, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Try to keep it to 800 words or less. I am willing to post your piece anonymously if you prefer.
I can’t wait to hear from you.