26 “Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.‘” –Genesis 32:26 NRSV (See vs. 22-32 for entire story)
One of the blessings I received during my recent health challenge is my renewed commitment to routines that are life-giving. I am far more intentional and dedicated to daily actions that restore my body, mind, and spirit.
This intentional caring for my body, mind, and soul, every single day, is a new thing for me. I have had seasons in which I’ve focused on one or two of those three, but I cannot remember a time when I was so invested in the daily care of all three. I have always been interested in the body, mind, and spirit connection and I’ve observed that when one of these three is being ignored, the other two seem to falter, as if the three are yoked together. Pain has taught me that all three must receive exercise, nourishment, and rest. As John Green so honestly wrote in The Fault In Our Stars: “That’s the thing about pain: It demands to be felt.”
This morning, in the time I was nurturing my spirit, I found a Jewish bedtime ritual which is based on the Genesis story of Jacob wrestling with an angel until daybreak and refusing to let the angel go until the angel blesses him:
“We’re Godwrestlers. We give ourselves to the holy work of wrestling with God, wrestling with Torah, wrestling with the world’s imperfections. And that wrestling is itself a kind of redemption. It lifts us out of a state of passive receptivity. When we wrestle with God and with Torah and with injustice in the world, we are transformed.” —Vayechi: A BLESSING AT BED TIME by Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt
The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel until daybreak is one with which I have always identified. Many things plague us in the still of the night: physical pain, mental anguish, the unrest of our spirit for those things left undone.
This Jewish bedtime ritual invites us to consider all the things with which we wrestle as holy. It suggests that in the wrestling, whenever we engage with one another, there is connection. And uncomfortable though it might be, our wrestling with God deepens our relationship, and can lead us to a deeper understanding.
As I continue establishing and honoring daily routines that often feel like wrestling matches, I invite you to join me in viewing these disciplines from a new angle. The process of attending to one’s body, mind, and spirit, is a kind of holy wrestling. Like any form of exercise, it can strengthen us for the work to which we are called, and leave us with blessings we dare not imagine.