This past weekend our community was once again invaded by a group of men from Indiana. Their presence is not noticeable unless you sell fishing licenses or donuts in the early morning. They come to fish and bond as a group of men, but more than this, they come to draw close to their Savior. Late each evening they gather to reflect on the memories of the day and then to look deeply into themselves. The place men fear to go, yet a place that Christ knows intimately.
As breakfast was served on Saturday the men rose to join the chow line. Men from their late teens well into retirement age sharing a common meal. I was struck by the varied styles of their strides. Some walked tentatively while others demonstrated confidence with each step. Some exuded the energy of youth while others were marked by the pain and stiffness from years of rigorous toil. As I watched in silence I was captivated by a simple question: What is the true sign of manhood? Is it marked by a swagger or a stagger?
Each of us, whether man or woman, is marked by the events of our lives. Some leave a positive impression while other leave a jagged and painful scar. Our days are often filled with challenges, struggles and questions. We wrestle with our jobs, our families, our Maker, and our very soul. The Bible records one such event in the life of Jacob. The story is found in Genesis chapter 32. Faced with a potentially life-ending confrontation with his brother Esau he devises a plan to protect some portion of his possessions and appease his older brother whom he had defrauded years earlier.
At the end of the long day Jacob finds himself alone as he wrestles with a heavenly messenger. While Jacob is unable to dominate he is also unwilling to concede. Finally as day begins to break the messenger dislocates Jacob’s hip. Still Jacob holds fast. He has lived by his own strength for too many years to give in easily. The messenger asked him, “What is your name?” And he said “Jacob.” And he said “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Imagine the swagger of Jacob as he walked away from the battle. He was victorious! Yet the Scriptures record a very different outcome. Genesis 32:31 records that as the sun rose Jacob was limping from his overnight encounter. So distinct was the change in his stride and character that the people of Israel consider the meat around the hip to be sacred to this day.
We live in a culture that attempts to hide the “marks” of our life changing encounters. We mask the pain through “medications” of many types. We may refuse to allow others to get close enough to see our scars. But Christ gave us a wonderful example as He highlighted the wounds of his suffering, “See here the marks of the nails”. He learned obedience through the things that He suffered. Our response to the challenges of life provide living proof of His vicarious death and atoning work. May we choose to walk differently because of our encounter with Him.