We finally have it. A name for our home. After six and a half long years of several attempts—”The Farm at Gosey Hill,” “The Dog House and The Menagerie” (partly because of the many comical moments here with the animals), and even the more eloquent, “Grace Abounds,” —none have seemed to be the right fit. It wasn’t until the name “P’Niel,”—which Jacob named the place where he saw God face-to-face, yet his life was spared—added to the earlier possibility of “Grace Abounds,” that Jerry and I, with a sigh of contentment and relief, felt the quest had finally ended.
What a seemingly strange choice to make for a name. And what a strange happening it was in the Bible. One that you have to sit and think on. The richness and depth I don’t think we will fully grasp until we’re in Heaven.
Genesis 32:24-30 ESV ~
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his 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 has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, 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 name of the place P’Niel,* saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.””
*Original spelling is Peniel, meaning Face of God. Hebrew spelling used for consistency.
Whether we know it or not, or even want to admit it or not, we all wrestle with God. I know I did. For months, as a teenager when I was first introduced to Him, I tried to wrap my head around who He is. I kept looking at the cross hanging above the baptistry, trying to feel something, anything. But it wasn’t until one Sunday morning, stumbling forward with tears, to yet one more altar call, confessing to my pastor, “I’ve lost Jesus and can’t find Him anywhere,” that Jesus found me.
Jesus…found…me…. I am still surprised by that.
My heart was changed in an instant. Where they had been no peace, a Sabbath Rest had taken its place. Where there had been a longing and an aching, became a quiet and a knowing that everything was, and is, going to be okay.
But being a teenager in the 1960s and ‘70s, I was too soon distracted from God. Lured away by wanting to be loved and accepted, going down many wrong paths, I found one day that my once stable beliefs were now tossed and buffeted about in a sea of doubt and faithlessness. A very frightening place for a Christian to land.
But there is hope.
Because God is faithful.
And He is our Father.
And as our Father God, He disciplines us in love, drawing us out of the mire and murk we have gotten ourselves into. Sanctification is a part of every believer’s daily life, as shown by Jesus when He washed the disciples’ feet. But for someone who hasn’t come before the Lord in years—like me since straying as a teenager—the process is intense and takes time.
I wanted so very much to be able to utter those same words, “I’ve lost Jesus and can’t find Him anywhere,” for everything to be suddenly okay as it was that day so many years ago. That all the sin I had welcomed back into my heart would be gone. But the Lord in His Providence knew I had much to wrestle through. Finding myself in the same company as the proverbial dog in Scripture who goes back to its regurgitation, I was filled with a build up of unknown and unconfessed sin which was choking the very life out of me. But where sin is, grace abounds. And God, in His mercy and forgiveness was right there with me always with the reassurance that once you belong to Him, He will never let you go (John 17:12). In HIs love and mercy, He is always calling us back to Himself.
So let this be a letter of hope. If you are that person who is far away from God, you can come home. Or if you know someone who has stumbled and is no longer walking with the Lord, pray for them. Encourage them. Be salt and light to them. They too, can return.
None of us are Jacob, for he became Israel, but I do believe his story shows us that at some point we all wrestle with God. Whether we’ve been faithful and the wrestling match is light, or like me, completely muddied up and the struggle intense, the dross in all our hearts is something that God, in His sovereignty, not to condemn us, but to cleanse us, bubbles to the surface. For He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). And like the wounding He brought to Jacob, through the trials and tribulations that come to us, He brings deep healing. For it is here that we see we need Jesus. And Jesus is the covering that will one day allow us to be in the very Presence of God and live.
Beholding the Face of God
In His Grace With Much Love,