This week I received a warm note from Pastor Schneider, former pastor here at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School. He was so affirming to me by his sadness at the announcement of my retirement, just as so many of you have been by your kind words…I do not know how to thank you all! When talking to the kids about what it means to retire, one of the first graders told me it means when you get very old, you have to rest a lot! Another said it means I can go to an NFL football game!! Oh, I am going to miss those little minds!
Anyway, in response to the story in my blog last week about the Carpenter and the Farmer, Pastor Schneider reminded me that the basis of that particular story is rooted in the story of Jacob and Esau’s reunion. I never thought of that until he shared that insight with me. However, that insight provoked another memory around that story that happened in my life many years ago.
After I graduated from Waldorf College, I stayed in Forest City for the summer to be the youth worker at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Two years before, I had started Waldorf and immersed myself in the faith community that was so strong at that sound Lutheran institution. However, by the end of my last year, I had started wondering what faith was all about, actually if God really existed. I took the summer job as a youth worker because it was easy to play the part. Since I had grown up with a dad who was a pastor, I knew all the right things to say, the sound Christian knowledge was engrained in me. But that summer I certainly did not feel as confident in my faith as I sounded. I felt like I was wearing a façade, I faked and pretended. I struggled inwardly, silently, not wanting to be “found out.”
Finally, at the end of the summer, I was in church one Sunday morning, sitting in the balcony listening to the sermon being preached by our pastor, now our dear friend, Ole Winter. He was describing Jacob’s journey back to being reconciled with Esau. (Now do you see the connection to Pastor Schneider’s note?) What brought the world silent around me during that sermon were the words right after Ole’s description of Jacob’s night wrestling with God. Ole said, “We all wrestle with God at some time in life. In the morning, we know…we walk from it differently than when we began.” It tells us in that Genesis story that after wrestling with God throughout the night, God then touched Jacob’s hip which caused him to limp so that he would know he wrestled with God.
Sitting in that church balcony, I realized that the summer had been my wrestle. And suddenly it hit me… I knew! I knew! I knew there was a God. I didn’t know how I knew, I just knew from somewhere deep in my soul. I didn’t limp down from that balcony and I’ve wrestled again from time to time, but those times have also left me touched by God over and over again, reassured that when I doubt, the morning will come again, and I’ll know.
It is such a good story to hold close to when we have decisions that cause us to wrestle. It gives us assurance that morning will come…and God is always there…in the wrestle and in the knowing.