‘Hearken to my weary voice, O God. I am your friend & co-conspirator in the struggle for a new world.’ (Activist’s Prayer)
Take a look at the first picture. This is called Vision of the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) by Van Gogh. This picture is based on the biblical story of Jacob, who ran away from home having cheated his brother out of his birth right. The second picture shows the second half of a piece I have shared already based on part of the same story. These two pictures are like two sides of a coin: one shows a part of Jacob’s story on his journey out and away from home, the other depicts part of his story on the way back, after long years of exile in another land.
My son is called Jacob, and when I told my parents what we were naming him, they were horrified. The meaning of the name is clearly spelled out in the bible: usurper, or supplanter; presumably referencing his treacherous behaviour toward his brother. However, I find great encouragement from Jacob’s story. He encounters the divine both when running away in a dream of a heavenly ladder, as shown in my artwork, and also when facing his fear, returning home to a brother who might well kill him, as shown in Van Gogh’s. In this second story, his struggle leaves him with a permanent limp, as the angel injures him in an effort to gain an advantage. He also receives a new name and a new sense of destiny.
I think we all struggle with the divine. We struggle to truly be who we are and who we are called to be. We struggle to accept the things that happen to us, those things that might injure us and leave us limping. We struggle to know our destiny. We struggle with our past and the effects it might have upon us. St Paul talks about a ‘thorn in the flesh’ which he asks God to take away: the reply is “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Not exactly what he wanted to hear I don’t suppose.
As we head into 2021, I am sure there will be many thorns along the way, both personal and societal, especially as the pandemic continues to dominate our world. The temptation will always be to put our heads in the sand and ignore the difficult things, to avoid wrestling with angels. But in the struggle is the promise of blessing, despite the pain it might bring us.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- What do you battle with in your life?
- What do you struggle with in society?
- How can you find blessing?
You will need a recent newspaper and scissors.
- Find an article that concerns you. What do you struggle with?
- Cut it out and keep it in a safe place, maybe if you have one, in your meditation space or with your meditation aids
- Read it every day this week and bring it to mind within your meditative practice. You may want to cut it up, or write or draw on it, that’s up to you.
- What can you do? What can’t you do?
- Where can there be a blessing?
This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission