Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
This is one of my all-time favorite readings from the Old Testament. The depth of the story and its hidden meanings are incredible and it closely mimics what I have found my own relationship with God to be like.
A life of friendship with God requires constant growth and purification of our heart to make room for God and God alone. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church's greatest scholar and writer, at the end of his life, had Jesus appear to him. Jesus offered him anything he wanted by saying, "Thomas, you have written well of me, what is it that you ask of me?" Thomas' response? In Latin: "Ni nisi te Domine." ("Nothing other than you, Lord.")
That's the right answer.
God, in order to test our hearts and our love for Him, will often take us through times of struggle that will serve as spiritual "rites of passage" for us. Every culture through human history has had certain rites of passage that signify when a man is fully a man. It generally involves the man being sent out alone on some great quest to battle with the world and himself. When he returns successfully, he is accepted by his people as a full adult man. Even now, men in particular need these events to validate our passage into manhood.
Man or woman, the Lord puts us through these rites of passage to help us grow in relationship with Him. Note the details of Jacob's struggle here: "After he had taken them across the stream and had brought over all his possessions, Jacob was left there alone." Jacob is first stripped of any of the idols he might cling to to protect himself. He is exposed, vulnerable, alone. It's just him and the Lord.
Now that the Lord has Jacob stripped of all of his attachments, He is ready to struggle with Jacob. Why? To subjugate Jacob? To be in power or control over Him? No. Because the human tendency to pride and self-reliance is going to be wedged so deeply in Jacob's heart that the Lord will have to physically wrestle it out of Him to show Jacob that He alone is his happiness, joy, and meaning in life.
"When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob's hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled." Jacob's pride is so stubborn, so deeply entrenched, that the only way that the Lord can break into his heart is to actually wound him.
You've seen images of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, with a sheep around His shoulders? It's always a docile, peaceful image, right? Around the time of Christ, when sheep would run away from their flock, they would be very difficult to get under control enough to bring back to the herd. They would get so worked up that they would be a danger to themselves and to others. What the shepherds would do to get them back to the herd is catch them and then break their legs, so that they wouldn't struggle anymore, and then fling them around their shoulders to carry them back to the herd. The Good Shepherd is Good, but He is not tame. If the only way we are going to let Him into our lives, or get to Heaven, is by having to be wounded, He won't shy away from doing so.
Jacob finally answers in the right way. His pride and strength is broken. He relents. He does what we need to do in times of trial. He clings to the Lord, saying: "I will not let go until you bless me." The Lord has many times wounded my heart in life so that I would learn to cling to Him more deeply. In those times, this has been my greatest prayer, sitting in the back of an adoration chapel, bewildered by God's plan and why He was allowing me to suffer in the ways that I was. Often, the only prayer I could muster to God was just that: "I will not let go until you bless me." Many times, it was months or even years before the Lord responded, but this is the only option we have in the midst of suffering. When the Lord is allowing our hearts to be wounded, we can either get bitter at Him, or we can continue to come before Him every day and allow Him to work on our hearts.
It is only with souls He can trust that the Lord does this. If you're still in the very beginner stages of getting your prayer life off the ground, the Lord will work much more simply with you. Proverbs tells us, "The Lord disciplines those He loves, like a father does to His child." If you've come close to the Lord, and given Him your entire heart, He may want to pull you in deeper by using the Jacob Method. In "Just and Just As" (a song that you have to go listen to right after your prayer time), by Penny and Sparrow (a group that if you haven't heard of by now you need to go loop repeatedly on Spotify right after your prayer time), they sing about this way of the Lord interacting with those He loves. They sing in the voice of the Lord singing to the soul He loves: "so come and look for me / I'm sorry but it's like that sometimes / And I don't mean to make you bleed / Unless it leaves you limping homeward / So come back to my heart / I'll give what they can't offer."
Why does God allow your suffering, soul that He loves? Because it is possible that the only whole heart is a broken one, and maybe the only way you'll become a saint, and be utterly filled with the joy and peace that comes from having a heart unequivocally, completely bound to the Lord, is to have you heart be shattered.
Ni nisi te, Domine. Nothing other than you, Lord.
He's worth it.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
When you hear the story of Jacob wrestling with the Lord, what images come to mind? What might He be trying to show you in your own life through that image?
What are the things in your life that God wants to wrestle out of you? For Jacob, it might have been pride, vanity, and control; what is it for you?
Is God enough for you? If you can't answer that definitively, what are you still scared to give Him? If you do say that yes, He is enough, are you actually living that way?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"Ni nisi te, Domine"
"Nothing other than You, Lord"
"I give it all to You, Lord"
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Today, take stock of the things in your life that you give a lot of value to. Are there any that you put before the Lord? Pay attention throughout the day to what it is that you value, and let the Lord purify that by spending some time before bed today reviewing the way that your day went and how you can place Him more at the center of your life.
Smartphone Lock Screen
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Today's prayer was prepared by Tim Glemkowski, Youth & Young Adult Minister at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Batavia, IL.
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