Sometimes we wake up in waves. Awareness comes like the tides – drawing closer with each break.
I woke up with a story. Right behind my eyes. Like an undertow – pulling me in. Drawing closer, more focused, with each returning breath.
Jacob was a twin. Once, long ago, he cheated his brother out of his rightful inheritance. Then he ran away in fear. He built an entire life, family, and fortune; a new home. Until one day his past caught up with him and he was forced to return. He felt nothing but dread. Still, he was so tired…of running, of fearing, of fighting.
I have a past – a heritage, a home, an inheritance even – that I’ve been running from for years now. And in that exodus, I have built a new life, a new culture, a new understanding of home. But increasingly that past is catching up with me. I feel the dread of return. Still, I’m so tired…of running, of fearing, of fighting.
On the eve before he was to reunite with his brother and his past, Jacob slept on the banks of a river. All night long he wrestled. Some say it was a man. Some say it was God. Still others say it was nothing more than a dream. Most say it was an angel. And Jacob fought. He would not let go, he would not give in, he would not admit defeat. Finally, when the angel saw that he could not overpower him, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it (a wound that Jacob would carry the remainder of his life). And then Jacob demanded that the angel bless him. Whether such occurred or not, Jacob was given a new name. The angel said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and have overcome.”
I have spent days (weeks, months, years) wrestling; fighting something.
I can’t quite put my finger on it. I can’t quite make it out. But in my confusion over its form, its source, its identity, I have not let go, given in, or admitted defeat. And though such might seem valiant and brave, it is not.
Not something: God.
My past, my heritage, my “home,” has been filled with God. Story. Doctrine. Church. Experience. Belief. Emotion. Prayer. Study. Grace. Faithfulness. Love. And it is all this from which, or perhaps from Whom, I have been running. I have deconstructed my theology and crafted a new one. I have left behind the liturgy and ritual of my youth – new ones taking their place. I have abandoned the “Faith of my Fathers,” a rock-solid, immovable system of belief in a male god, a hierarchical church, and all the tenets therein, in search of one that resonates with my Mothers – matriarchal cultures, the Sacred Feminine, stories of sisters who are bound to us yet today.
This “leaving” has been necessary; part of the process of growing up, of thinking for myself, of developing a system of beliefs that I can believe. But in so doing, I have been unwilling to return. I have sat on the banks of the river, almost able to reach out and touch what I’ve left behind, but quickly pulling myself back.
I have been afraid that “returning” will mean abandoning myself and regressing, receding, reverting.
But men (and women), God, dreams, and angels have been willing to do battle – on my behalf. They have held on to me while I have wrestled. They have refused to let go, refused to give in, refused to admit my defeat. And though it has felt like I must prevail, I am the one who has been lost.
Jacob had feared reuniting with his brother Esau for many years. He was certain his brother would harm him, destroy all that he had built these years away, defeat him, and leave him empty and alone. But upon waking the next morning and crossing the river, he was met with Esau’s embrace, Esau’s tears, Esau’s complete and gracious welcome “home.” All these years Jacob had been fighting only with himself. Home had always been there, just over the river, waiting for him; never with the intention to “take” or wound; rather to run to him, open-armed and joyous at his return.
I have feared reuniting with my faith, my understanding of God, the language and liturgy and life I know better than the back of my hand. I have been afraid that returning to such would mean a loss of all that I’ve fought to build – new forms of faith, new understandings of God, new language and liturgy and life. I’ve been afraid that returning would mean a giving in to Something outside of myself; a defeating of my own power and strength, my awareness of divinity in and of myself. And I have been afraid that returning would mean a loss of all I hold dear on this side – conversations, faces, friends; as though one home was mutually exclusive of the other.
I am still afraid. I am not sure that the home I seek exists. I am definitely ready to stop fighting.
The wrestling has been with myself.
I am finally aware that nothing and No-one has had any intention to “take” or wound; rather, that the Divine, no matter how understood, has been ever-present; a cool and refreshing river on the edge of my self-imposed desert; it’s current running toward me, open armed, and joyous at my return.
The proud, defiant, and stubborn part of me would like to claim I have been wrestling with angels and have won. But the honest, hip-wrenched part of me knows better. I have been fighting against myself – and my own demons – while women and men, angels, and Higher Powers have held on to me. I have not “struggled with God and overcome;” rather, I have struggled and the Divine has stayed, patiently waiting and tenaciously hoping for me to be overcome with exhaustion, but more, to acknowledge my deep, deep hunger for a place of rest…and to finally wake up.
Sometimes we wake up in waves. Awareness comes like the tides – drawing closer with each break(through).
I laid in bed, lost in thought, lost in this story, parsing out bits and pieces of its meaning, and realized that my hip hurt. It still does.
“My sciatic nerve,” I tell myself. And stories that endlessly, graciously, miraculously continue to break over me like waves, baptize me in blessing, and carry me home.
I’m not sure I could have or would have written this post, at least today, were it not for two women who even in the past twenty four hours have listened to me wrestle. I am deeply grateful for Lianne and Andrea who have reminded me that this returning to “home” does not mean a loss of anything; rather a stepping into my inheritance, an experience of myself that is undivided, and though not given a new name, certainly speaking with a stronger, truer voice.