Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hope of a Good Opinion

Near the beginning of January of this year, I struggled with God. I admit it wasn’t even close to the physical wrestling Jacob encountered with God at the ford of the Jabbok. Nevertheless, it was a struggle. I asked God what I lacked in my life. What could he and I work on this year? What could I do to draw closer to God, who resides near me forever—even when I take a step back from him?  
            The story of Jacob helps explain why I chose “Christ in you the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27) as my anchor for this year:
            During Jacob’s sojourn with his mother’s family, he learned a lot about himself. He often saw his past deceit of others mirrored in his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law. Sometimes it just takes a swindler to know one. While there, Jacob gained two wives, two concubines and eleven sons. When he would finally leave to travel back home, he also left with droves of animals.
            On that return trip, God met Jacob at the river ford in the form of an angel. Jacob was on the run from in-laws, on the move toward a brother who had promised to kill him, and on plan to reunite with the dad he’d deceived. What he hadn’t planned upon was a run-in, a skirmish, a wrestling match with God. Guess who won the physical match? God. However, guess who received the blessing? Jacob.
            I’m reading Scarred by Trouble, Transformed by Hope by Benedictine nun and writer Joan Chittister. She speaks of Jacob's s story as a paradigm for a "spirituality of struggle." In Jacob's story, she identifies eight elements of our human struggle—change, isolation, darkness, fear, powerlessness, vulnerability, exhaustion, and scarring. However, Chittister says, God doesn’t leave us there, and in each human struggle a corresponding divine gift becomes available to us—conversion, independence, faith, courage, surrender, limitations, endurance, and transformation.
            The writer of Genesis generously defines the result of Jacob’s struggles, culminating at Jabbok, when he wrote, "God blessed Jacob there" (32:29).
             Propped on my kitchen windowsill, an index card holds the slightly reworded Colossian 1:27: “Christ in [Cathy] the hope of glory.” When I delved a bit further into the study of that verse, I found from W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words that the word, “glory” (doxa) “primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and honor, the honor resulting from a good opinion.” As you know, I am writing about humility this year. Little did I know how this one verse completely points to humility and hope.
            When Christians worship together, we often confess our Lord through these song lyrics, “My only hope is you, Lord, my only hope is you. Till early in the morning, till late at night my only hope is you.” My anchor scripture has instilled that the only hope I have of a good opinion of self or of presenting God to the world is Christ in me. Isn’t that the lesson Jacob finally learned? God in Jacob caused an ordained plan to unfold. Jacob in Jacob hadn’t turned out so well.
            At my Jabboks when I struggle with God, I’ve found that Cathy in Cathy never works. Conversely, I’ve learned that Christ in Cathy produces hope.
            With half a year to go, I’ve learned that seeking humility caused many struggles and most of them took me to my knees in prayer asking for forgiveness. “My only hope is you, Lord. My only hope is you.”        
Question for Readers: What hymn or praise song best describes your relationship or dependence upon God?

Hunger for Humility (22): “I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14).

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