Today’s scripture: Genesis 32 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Lynnette Pullen-Bradford):

My kids and I are all black belts in tae kwon do. It took years to achieve this, and, over that course of time, we learned many things. The most valuable lessons often had little to do with the actual art, but had more to do with learning about life and ourselves.

There was one time our instructor was teaching us about self-defense. We had to learn how to keep calm and protect ourselves during an attack. I was paired with my then 16- or 17-year-old daughter. My assignment was to attack her, but the caveat was that she had to start from a disadvantage. She was on her back and her attacker (me) was already on top of her, choking her. She had been taught the maneuvers to use to get out of that position and had practiced it sufficiently. Now, it was time to put it into action. My instructor told me not to “go easy.” He reminded me that he wanted it to simulate an actual attack (without causing serious harm, of course).

I obeyed. See, I know my kid, and I know how this world can be. I knew this would be an activity that she would take lightly, giggling at the awkwardness of our position. She’d perform her move, free herself, and receive her applause. I had other plans. From the moment, he said “go,” I began to choke her — not with enough force to cause harm, but enough to limit her air supply.

I pinned her hip down with my knee and buried my elbows into her chest. I could see panic rising in her eyes, but I didn’t let up. She reflexively tried to call my name, flailing her arms and squirming about, forgetting all of her training. I stayed calm, never letting up, and said, “Think, baby.” She grabbed my wrists and tried to remove me hands. Wrong move. I squeezed tighter and dug deeper.

Now, no more panic in her eyes. I saw determination and fire.

She was remembering her training. She grabbed me and pulled me close, throwing off my balance. She held tight, and we rolled on the floor, wrestling with all our might. I was stronger than she’d realized, and it wasn’t easy, like it was in practice. We fought hard, both of us, sweating now; each of us trying to best the other. But I wasn’t trying to win. I was teaching her something. She finally was able to break free of my grasp. I smiled because I knew she earned that. I didn’t give it to her.

She was a little scratched up and out of breath at the end, but she was stronger than I’d ever seen her. She learned how to fight for her life, even when she starts out at a disadvantage. She learned to push past fear and think under pressure. She learned that I love her beyond comprehension and would fight her to demonstrate that love.

I’m sure, to onlookers, it must have been weird and alarming to watch a mother “attack” her daughter, with such force. Much like it looks weird to us for the angel to attack Jacob, but I gather there is much more to that story than we are allowed to see. I don’t fully understand that encounter Jacob had with the angel, but I don’t have to understand to believe that, somehow, it helped him.

Thought for the day: So, if you find yourself wrestling with God, consider that God may not be trying to hurt you but may be trying to teach you something. Maybe God wants you to learn to fight for your life, even if you are at a disadvantage. God might want you to learn to press past your fears. Whatever it is, don’t assume the worst, and remember: God loves you more than you can comprehend and may even fight you to help you understand that.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

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