The story of Jacob wrestling from Genesis 32:24-31 is one that has stuck with me as I think about this year:
The story of Jacob has been particularly poignant after reading Black Liberation Theologian James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree (read the book but if you don't have time right now, check out this interview with Bill Moyers here and a lecture about it here). There, he speaks of black religious experience of wrestling, wrestling with trouble, wrestling with doubt, using this story from Genesis. It is a story I don't understand, but I am still drawn to because of the intimacy and the violence all wrapped up together. That is what I have seen this year. I visited Occupy Wall Street in New York right before it was evicted: the intimacy in living all together in tents, under tarps, playing music sitting on the sidewalk, was so beautiful. And yet, there was such violence, as we all saw in that horrifying picture of the police officer pepper spraying the UC Davis protesters.
It is about resistance against the odds. In the face of the increasing militarization of police, in the face of re-encroaching apathy of young people (we thought Egypt and OWS might have been the end of that), in the face of continued occupation of Palestine, in the face of the prison industrial complex, in the face of continued homophobia and heterosexism...God is there, alongside us, wrestling. I think sometimes God is also wrestling us when we can't see the joy in the struggle or when in the struggle we continue to support systems of oppression, or we are wrestling God when we just cannot see God's presence through the pepper spray--- there is this mess of arms and legs flailing about that we can't always separate out and understand. But as we continue into 2012, let us think about this wrestling and know that 2012 will be a year of continued wrestling. Where will we see God face-to-face in this year? Where will we strive with God and with humans for justice and prevail? And where will we find joy in the struggle?
|Jacob Wrestles the Angel by Arthur Sussman (see more of his work here)|
Shannon Sullivan is a seminary student at Drew in Madison, New Jersey, and is pursuing ordination in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. She is also a member of the OnFire leadership team. She blogs at You'll Never Guess What the Heathens Did Today.