The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is Helpless. Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?
Once upon a time…very early on a Friday morning (still known as night to most people) in late January, I set out on a hiking trip into the Great Smokey Mountains – up Mount LeConte, to be a little more exact.
I was with 3 others (my sister, a fellow youth leader, and his teenage daughter – who you see with me in the pic), each of them having the good sense to eat breakfast prior to the hike. (So my excitement had me preoccupied – that important little detail escaped me.) Although it was foggy, the weather report at the Ranger Station was good, so we headed out for an invigorating winter day-long hike. Early on the trail (I’m guessing less than 200 feet from the trailhead), as I rushed to take the lead and forge my way up the hill, my foot slipped on a little piece of “black ice,” twisting my entire leg and pulling a hip flexor ligament. I was unable to lift my foot to make a full step for the remainder of the hike – about 7 miles up to one of the highest points on the Appalachian Trail!
Worse yet, we hadn’t expected snow that day – and it wasn’t long before we were trekking up the mountain in 3”, 6”, 9”, 12” – up to 18” of snow by the time we neared the top. The colder it got and the deeper the snow, the slower my shuffled gait became on the linear regression curve – according to the growing stiffness and pain in my hip. At times, it felt as though I wasn’t even progressing. I literally had to reach down and drag my foot by pulling my leg through the snow, though I, of course, kept saying, “No, I’m fine.” Two of our party went on ahead of us, as I’m sure they needed to maintain their rhythm to make it up the mountain in these conditions until they could come up on places to rest and wait. But my faithful co-youth leader and friend, Ralph (whose wife, Debbie, was smarter than us, because she opted not to go on the hike) remained faithfully and steadfastly at my side.
Ralph was a true friend. As an avid mountain hiker, he could have easily outpaced me on a good day if I’d had a healthy hip – and his human nature may have wanted to do that. But he never once complained about the slow pace he chose to maintain with me. His big-brother mode not only encouraged me the entire way (even stopping me for a forced breakfast break with the squirrels – who must’ve come out, thinking I was a nut); but he practiced incredible patient steadfastness and threw in some great conversation to keep my mind distracted from my injury. Somewhere along the way, we started with some small talk, but then progressed to talk about those more important matters in our lives. I had been a young widow for a whopping 6 months at that time, still trying to emotionally recover from the unexpected trauma. Ralph, in contrast, had been married to Debbie for over 20 years. He openly reminisced about how they’d met, their dating years, about falling in love. Being raised by my dad, I understood what a rare occurrence it was to get to hear inside a man’s heart, and I felt privileged for the experience.
By the time we reached our intended destination – the summit, where the normally breathtaking view provided nothing more to see through our iced eyelashes that day than an ample amount of fog – we were lucky to grab a few moments in a shelter in which we all huddled to gain some caloric strength from our sandwiches. I think we finished them in about two bites, as we were being beaten and tortured, even in the shelter, by vicious winds and icy rain. It was there when we realized we were going to have to rethink our strategy to get off that mountain. (The ranger’s station dispatch thought to use the same shortcut strategy too, as a crampon-clamped, ice-encrusted party of boots attached to a well-lit search team was on its way up to assure we – and any other non-existent people who might have been “daring” – I like that word better than “foolish” – enough to go up there weren’t planning to try to brave an oncoming storm in the shelter. Seriously? Were they feeling this icy wind? Oh, yeah, it wasn’t their sanity that was being questioned.)
I can only say that, for the longest time after that hike,
I possessed a wonderfully worshipful attitude!
In processing my experience, there was no brag in making it up Mount Le Conte, despite the odds of injury and ice. Instead, all I could recall was my “God moment” – how my friend had waited for me and encouraged me along the way, how our hiking party planned an entire re-route (which was a risk for all) with me in mind, and how another dear friend had been on standby and had joyfully come to our rescue at the end of another trail (based on the information we were able to give her once we received cell reception for just the small but right amount of time needed to convey it). I had learned to walk on a hike in an entirely new sort of way – a way that had to do with my survival on the one hand, and faithful friendship on the other.
Despite any loneliness I had felt over the last several months in my life,my God-moment showed me I wasn’t alone.
I suddenly could see that this was the very relationship that God wanted to have with me – one where I utterly and completely had to rely on Him for my sustenance – His companionship, His guidance, His patience – His walk with me.
God knew that I was at my river crossing in life – between being a widow from a heartbreaking marriage (scared – though not admitting it – of what the future held) and re-routing towards a new beginning. On that fateful day, my hip injury slowed me down enough so that I could experience relationship in a way that I would have otherwise missed. And that’s how, in my own hip injury experience, I think I can relate a little more to Jacob’s story at the River Jabbok – how his limp signified the irony of the blessing, in the place where he was brought closer to his reliance on God.
Have you ever felt like you were battling God with your hurts and pains, when maybe you were being blessed with an opportunity to rely more closely on our Lord’s faithfulness?