Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp

The other day I read a portion of One Thousand Gifts in the morning while we were doing our Bible reading and prayer. We had just read about Jacob, and so I read to best beloved what Anne had to say about Jacob wrestling with the angel.
Anne is dealing with a son after a fracas in the kitchen and after the shouting has stopped, she tells her son a story:
     "There was once a wrestler like us. His name was Jacob. And on a night when he was all alone, staring up at the stars in the dark, unable to sleep because he was scared to go meet his brother the next day, this brother that he had run away from because the brother had wanted to actually take his bare hands and kill him. Talk about taut family ties."...  
      "... Jacob was terrified to meet his brother Esau. And all night long, he wrestles hard with a man, flailing and thrashing and struggling and he grips his fingers deep into the leg, the torso of the man, and he utterly refuses to let go, right till the sun embers kindle up the horizon. It's hard. He's exhausted. He's confused.....
     "And when the man can't overpower or throw off Jacob, he touches the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh. The man breaks Jacob. Then day breaks. And he commands Jacob to let him go.....
      "But Jacob, he refuses to let the man go. He doesn't even really know who the man is, can't clearly see his face, but he begs, "I will not let you go until you bless me." And the man turns to Jacob and gives him a new name. Names him Israel, the God wrestler. Says to him, "You've wrestled with God and you've come through." All that while Jacob hadn't known who he was wrestling. Just a man in the dark, a man he couldn't see. And in the black, all that night, it was the face of God over him that he was struggling against. God is behind the faces, son. Can we see?"...
     "And you know what Jacob named the place? Peniel-- means God's face. He said, "I saw God face-to-face and have lived to tell the story!"
     I smile. "But there's more to the story. There's always more to every story." His lips twitch a sad smile and I see it. I half grin. "A long time ago, a preacher named James H. McConkey asked a friend of his, a doctor, "What is the exact significance of God's touching Jacob upon the sinew of his thigh?"
     "And the doctor told him, "The sinew of the thigh is the strongest in the human body. A horse couldn't even tear it apart."
     "These are the words I have never forgotten, what preacher McConkey said: "Ah. I see. The Lord has to break us down at the strongest part of our self-life before He can have His own way of blessing with us."
     Like this morning, breaking us down at the tough parts...Then we see. See the blessing.
     "And when Jacob went out the next morning to meet that brother he dreaded? After the dark of the wrestle, and being torn right apart in his strongest part, by a man he didn't even know was God-- do you know what he said? He looked into the face of his brother, that brother who had wanted to kill him, and he said, "To see your face is like seeing the face of God." (Genesis 33:10 NIV)....
     "Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessing, and all faces become the face of God. See, son?"
     Like Jacob, we ask, breathless and heaving, where He is, who He is, for His name here, the only real blessing. "Please tell me your name." We have named the graces and there found His name, Glory, and in the face of man we have seen the face of God. Then Him, the blessing, God, joy-water in the desert.
     But wells don't come without first begging to see the wells; wells don't come without first splitting open hard earth, cracking back the lids. There's no seeing God Face-to face without first the ripping.
     Tear the thigh to open the eye.
     Wrench the socket of the hip, the tough grizzle of the heart, and heal the socket of the eye. It takes practice, wrenching practice to break open the lids. But the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.


  1. "We need to be broken so we can see God in the people" - I love this quote! Kind of gives meaning to our whole struggle, doesn't it?

  2. contacted me as echokynthei on wrongplanet
    Q regarding recognizing depression?

    1. Nope. I actually use my name on WrongPlanet: lelia. You need to note that it is a mispelled name that I inherited from an aunt. Grandmother kept being pulled out of class to hoe cotton in Texas, so she never got past the third grade, SO she never learned how to spell well.

  3. "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;" Isaiah 42:3

  4. Hi Lelia -

    Thanks for becoming a Following at my blog. I've become a Follower here, and look forward to getting to know you.