Genesis 32:22-32 (NRSV)
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,* for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel,* saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
This is probably my favorite passage involving one of the patriarchs. In this section of Genesis, Jacob is fleeing/leaving the company of his father-in-law Laban, but also coming closer to his brother Esau. Despite Esau's own less-than-sharp thinking under pressure, Jacob has every reason to worried about encountering Esau after many years.
So Jacob send his wives, children and maidservants across the river and tries to sleep. In that sleep, he wrestles with an angel, who may well be Y*HW*H. In this wrestling, Jacob forces a blessing and carries the mark of that wrestling for the rest of his life. It even affects generations that come after him.
This passages gives me hope because, first, no matter how big a scoundrel we are... God still finds us and pulls us into a relationship. Whether we are active in that wrestling or passive, God is there- longing for us to wrest out the blessing He desires to give. And the blessing we receive through our encounter with God can have a profound affect on our lives and on all those around us.
The grace and glory of a Living God is that encounters are possible, yea, PROBABLE- each and every day. In our travels, our work and even our dreams, God comes to us, calling us and wrestling us in relationship with Him. God's grace, in its entirety, will pen you to the mat- but you won't limp away without a blessing.