Sometimes an idea for a C.P.E. kinda lollygags around in my brainstem (or thereabouts) for several weeks, but it is like only half of an idea. A joke minus the punchline is just another oddball story. We require a "coherence' a making-sense-of things for us to enjoy or really grasp content.
So, it seems to me then, a rule of thumb drops out of this sort of mental wreckage. If part of an idea is present, just keep it on simmer; on a back burner for a few days. Ask questions, and try to figure out what the absent section is. Sometimes it "comes to you"!
The first half of today's C.P.E. was present and accounted for, and it forms our title. We trust here that you recognize old "Wrestles-With" as one and same with the culprit, "Usurper". Have I lost you?
Well, way back when, they gave babies names with content, and those handles were descriptive. We don't have much in the way of parallels in our modern world, except in Westerns! You probably have some memory or another about native Americans and the names they are called-by in movies. "Swift Waters" says to "Walking Bear", "Hey, how's about we go hunt us up some bison?". Their birth names might have something to do with the circumstances or hopes or fears which the parents deemed interesting; at or near their conception or birth? Hey, clearly I am making up names here, but what we want to note is that such names as "Brittany and Jessica" which are chosen for fashion sensibility or sentimental connections to others are a modern innovation.
Young Usurper (Jacob) really did "grasp the heel" of his elder brother "Red", and a "heel-grasper" was roughly equivalent to "con-artist". It would be an odd world if parents named their kids "Stock-Market-Crash", or "Tech-Bubble", but at least we get the idea here. Usurper gets a new name, and he is ever after "Wrestles-With-El", with El being the equal of our generic term "God" here. Talk about a weird idea!
I can't keep up, but the last I remember hearing, the W.W.F. is nowadays the W.W.E.; is that even correct? I haven't any interest in that stuff, and it makes precisely zero improvement in anyone's lives, as best as I can tell. But, what they do have, is drama, a nice-guy underdog versus the slimy bad guys who cheat like crazy. The apparently blind referee takes a bad situation and makes it worse, and yet, even here; can good prevail? It's a multi-million dollar business, and people love it! In the Usurper vs. The Almighty grudge-match however, it seems backward, and truly odd.
I mean what is this story even doing in holy writ? "Ding, ding, ding! And introducing tonight's knock down drag out. In this corner, in the black and scarlet trunks, weighing in at 138 lbs., hailing from the back country where he just ripped off his father-in-law for a fortune, Jacob . . . The Uuuusurrrper! Boo, hiss, throw the bum out! And in the opposing corner, clothed in heavenly light and wearing the gold and frankincense trunks, weighing in, at infinite glory, hailing from on high . . . The Allll. . .Migh-ty! Tonight's match will be a no-holds-barred endurance unto surrender match, lllet's ruuumbbbble!"
Wait a minute, what sort of match-up is this? And worse, you're telling me The Almighty . . . loses? What in heck is that all about? There has gotta be a scoop here, a sraight-skinny which makes sense of the narrative, at least we would hope so!
Not to get too personal here, but most of the talk I have heard just in this neighborhood, is a bizarro "application" of the story, to the effect; "Are you also wrestling with God?". It ends up a quasi-endorsement for feeling depressed (occasionally), or it is a not-condemnation of doubt per se? And whether delivered in book form or public address, this kind of take on the World's Weirdest Federation of Wrestlers (W.W.F.W.) just rings hollow to me. There ain't any meat on them bones!
Now, believe me or not, this was only the first half, of the first half, concerning this essay. Recall above, that last week I was pretty clear on the resolution of this story, and I have yet to mention that solving, but how do we get from a redemptive, and earth-changing drama, back to my stupid life? It was in the area of application that the glitch likes to hang out we would infer? So, I propose the back half to be told first, so to begin with another weird story out of my own experience, and then relate that mess "backwards", over to the first weird story! If this attempt falls flat, don't be too alarmed.
My story is about "wub" or the lack thereof. If you've any experience reading these essays of the crazed pants variety, you ought recognize that I have (at 57) never really dealt well with women, love, relationships and all of that other gory material, which our world finds so astonishingly interesting. I thus consider what I am about to say, uttterly fitting for "VD", which just so happens to be today, 14 Feb!
By the time I was in my early twenties, my set answer along these lines became; "I don't get it". There is an utterly confounding and very complicated set of unspoken (and real!) rules of the road in regard to marriage, income, social position, security for the future, and all of the other stuff, all somehow being poured into the cauldron of sexual concourse? To my mind, it was a bit like, just when; and at the very moment, that I was least capable of making a rational statement on anything at all; due to the massive dose of drugs, it was then that I was to soberly pledge fealty to the death?
So, in this case, the drugs are naturally occurring brain drugs, so what? You are still stoned out of your gourd. Back when I was still drinking, it was true that after the first 12-pack; it is really not the best time to make an informed decision on whether to go get some more! Take that kind of intoxication, and multiply by about twelve and a half, and change the choice from a road trip around the corner, to a lifetime of service? What makes sense about this? And by the way, why does this seem like such a natural and obvious challenge to all other persons? How come everybody else gets it?
I don't "get" calculus, and I don't "get" brain surgery either, those guys are just way smarter than me. By "wanting to get it", does this qualify me to cut open your head? By the mere wanting, am I thus somehow qualified to draw up the flight plan for the next Mars rover? NO! You need to know. . . first, so say I! And I just don't know, so leave it alone, and quit bothering people already. In a strong sense, that "was" me, but all of this is founded and built upon a "rightness".
I mean this, nobody, not the worst felon ever, self conciously builds their life upon premises they do not believe are "right". It's just that nobody else on the planet agrees that their version of the "right" is the actual. This is true of all of us, and so we expect (and find) war is just about mankind's favorite past-time. We are all about competing "rights", and since a person is unable to give up what they believe, for the excellent reason that they are right, force is necessarily applied. It is "who" we are.
Yet, there exists the driving influence, the normative set, of which the public discourse is only an echo and report of. I mean, nobody is publically "for" education on the basis that The Almighty has abandoned us here, but that "right guess" might form the secret, of which the hue and cry is symptom. I hope I haven't lost you here?
In my stupid life, the public and outward was my sobriety gambit, so to (convienently enough) derail any real involvement with females. We would err to presume that the secret driver here was a wild eyed zeal for temperance or tea-totalism. Heck no! My theory on alcohol and drugs is that our world and ourselves are so screamingly butt-ugly, that maybe a little fuzzed-up, three hour vacation, of "not-seeing" of things, might well make sense!
So what people say is often based upon their "true rightness" and also very rarely a flat declaration of it, since nobody likes the self righteous. It is like a mirror function, there are bounce-backs and echos of what was actually intended. So then; people call you "an amazing friend" if you have any ability at all to filter through this guck. If you can voice back to them, what they intended to say (and did not), out of this sort of matrix, they assume that you like them?
Cutting to the chase then, the whole sexual schmeer just never filed for me, for one big reason, and that would be; "Why bother?". The output of sex, can end in kids, and I swore even as a third grader, to never-ever, do that! Here was my "rightness", and nobody in the known universe could shake me off of it. And why would that be? Because I was right!
Carl N.M.I. Labor was my Dad, and I knew (somehow?) that whatever flaws and failures were his, would be heavily shared, and "improved upon" in me. The other third grade boys would say silly things like: "When I get big, I am not going to be mean, like my Dad!". I didn't tell them, but thought; "Nonsense! You will be more like he is, than he is!". And whatever the damage was, whatever that injury was, I simply refused to duplicate it into the next generation. I was "that complex".
Ours was a strange home, perhaps best typified by what was not-said? Dad never had tirades, in fact it was a mystery to know if he was even angry? Now, Mom, you could read her, but Pop was "remote". Perhaps I did so, but I have zero memories of sitting on his lap. Maybe it happened, but I can't remember a single time we boys were told that he was proud of us, as we grew up. In brief, I just couldn't tell where I stood with the guy. He seemed friendly enough, in a clumsy and distant way, but I as a person, was "a mouth to feed"? Was that it?
The entire topic of women, sex, money and like related stuff, directly related to marriage was this huge dial-tone, simply another non-topic. I was both attracted and repelled by the feminine in it's various incarnations, and assumed that I alone; out of all humanity; was just too dim to grasp the inneundo. . . or something? It was confusing to say the least, and from a very early age, I did a Harry Truman, (since Dad admired him) and declared; "The buck stops, here!". I say so, this misery, this confusion shall not be duplicated, and transferred down the line.
So, my "best truth" isn't much at all. It, like the hippocratic oath, is a swearing-first; "Do no harm". My naturally nebbish, bookish and geeky demeanor served me admirably I must say! Dad used to kid me at Art's Barbershop. It was good natured. He would say; "Art, beside Mike's haircut, could you sell me a small billy-club? See, he is going to be so handsome, he will need one to fend off the girls!". I have no idea how many times I heard the joke, but it seemed funny to me, that I was building just that very same, anti-girl device!
Yes, me; Mike Labor have designed and built the ultimate keep-girls-at-bay armaments and accessories. I will wait politely until the applause subsides. As a boy, I had only the vaguest notions as to where babies came from, and since that was a non-topic at the house, I just figured it out on my own! It turns out (oddly), that women are involved somehow, and (remember this is 1965) apparently, marrying one appears related? Bingo, all I need to do, to not reproduce this misery; is stay the heck away from girls! I was elated. Especially when you toss in the door prize of stiffing Pop! See? The anti-girl device had a dual usage. . .
Of course, he never told me this, but I became so adept at reading inferred statements out of stated ones, that I am hereby presuming to reveal Dad's secret, and driving "right-ness". The short version is that, it was imperative; to not-fail!
Forged in the tough years of the Great Depression, fighting in a death struggle with the Nazis, I am convinced the verb; "to not-fail", was Dad. And look at me Pops! You fear failure? Ha! I scoff at it, I drink the stuff for breakfast. Look up the word in Websters, they have got my picture! For me, failure was like falling on a log, easy as cake! You see what I just did there; failing to correctly cite two cliche's? Stunning!
And for you young and upcoming failures, I tell ya, I could put on a clinic! "To effectively drive off females, Chapter One" . . . The thing is practically writing itself in my head! Ah, the glory of it all. I was right, and succeeded at being a zero, and the proof is (importantly); there are no short persons running around all mystified by the rubbish in my head. I'd like to thank all the nonexisent little people who made this possible. . . Thus we view a manic, a driven and might I add (?), scary weirdo. Just what the doctor ordered, keep your little billy-club Art, I got this one nailed!
So, I hope (by now) you get the flavor of what it is like living inside this skull, kinda cramped! All this jazz to say, I normally reject the bland assertion of "wrestling with God", because it is way too easy to win! I have had the Guy on the mat for nearly fifty years, and where has it gotten me? He says; "It is not good for the man to be alone". I swiftly counter with; "And the cure is worse than the disease, I win again!".
No, the Jacob to Israel thing is bigger, better and brighter (by far!) than our petty feuding with our Maker. The covenant lord on the planet, Jacob the Usurper, has a run-in with, and will not let go, "a man", until He blesses him. Our hostilities against each other are rooted in a prior and greater war with "El".
See? He's got us in spades! You can twist and turn and cheat and hope for the blind referee, but in the long haul, Justice and Righteousness prevail, and His version, is the real deal! When that hammer hits, we are toast. The ultimate smack down cage match is between Him, and man? That is crazy! And crazier yet, the man prevails? What is this all about?
Well, I am glad you asked! That wild story at the river's edge is the story of the hope of mankind! Each of us, in our twisted little way maintains a "rightness" unto death. We can't give it up, we can't let it go. It's right! There is (actually) less than zero odds of any creature or coalition thereof prevailing against El Elyon in a grudge match. This is true for the obvious reasons. He controls our being (existence), life and future; He's got us surrounded.
So, this at minimum is preaching that the very first moment in which the enemy first thought of warring upon, and replacing He Above; was strictly speaking, insane. This insane patterning at our root then, thus manifests in our words but only indirectly. We very rarely hear; "I am (apparently) insane". Sin then, can be thought of in this fashion, and the denial of lawless rebellion we are all so expert at, is founded upon this false "rightness" we bear within. Sin then, is an excess of "rightness"! It is merely that our version of such is horribly twisted.
The covenant is founded upon a to-the-death agreement, not between God and man generically speaking, but between God and the lord of earth, the "Adam". And dig this; He is sworn upon His own honor, to uphold both sides of the agreement? What? Enough with the crazy talk already! But work with me here, and recall that Abraham did not, himself walk through the pieces, and so; he did not swear the curse upon himself. But that is just more craziness! For that to happen, God Himself, would . . . need to be a man?
Hey! Wait a minute! Where have we heard that idea before? The Coming One, the Anointed of Wrestles-With (Himself?) is the One in the real cage match, of which Jacob is token and emblem of good to come.
What happens when the irresistible force meets the unmovable object? We get covenant! In truth, in reality and in history, One Man "prevailed" upon God, and was destroyed in the process. Three days later He emerged, all glorious and glad. That's the reality here baby!
That love, that love all consuming and fierce, that love of the Real Dad for the Real Son, nothing in creation can dim it. It is an eternal torrent of light, a regular super-nova of joy, except really, really bright!
And you my friend, you the miserable and sculking, have been joined to Him! In, with, through, by, and for Him, that "is" us, the renewed! And from this mighty fine gift of position and True Friendship, you shall share (and indeed already are sharing?), in a feast, a song a soaring yet undrempt.
The story at the riverside, is the saga of the hope of mankind. The Real Lord of the Real Covenant prevails, and you in-Him also.
Yes! You-who-hear, ain't heard nuthin' yet! I say so.