Let’s be honest: how many of us, at some point in our lives, totally unironically and with great joy, watched professional wrestling?
I loved WWF (now WWE) when I was a kid. My best friend and I watched it all the time. Those were the days of Hulk Hogan vs. Sergeant Slaughter. Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage. Jake the Snake. The Undertaker. Ray Mysterio.
Even after I found out the matches aren’t quite totally… unscripted… I still had a lot of fun watching WWE.
I think it’s because the characters, the wrestlers, are so much larger than life. They all have personalities, characters they inhabit and play all the way. They brag big, walk in with swagger. The matches seem larger than life. When I was a kid, some of the best matches were the Summer Slams, where the wrestlers were always promising big shakeups. Battles for belts. Titles on the line. That sort of stuff that for a 10-year-old were huge.
When I read this story from Jacob’s life, about his wrestling match with God, (Genesis 32:9-31) I can’t help but think of the WWE guys, of their large- than-life matches. Because this moment has that same sort of feel for Jacob. This is a world-changing night. This is one of those summer slams that actually lives up to the hype. So today, brace yourselves. Because there’s gonna be Pain at Peniel!
Jacob’s got a thing – call it a habit, maybe. Or a personality quirk. Jacob is a trickster; his name even means “Deceiver”. Jacob is smarter than everyone around him, and he uses his wit to his advantage. In every relationship, he’s always jockeying for position, doing whatever it takes to get the upper hand.
Jacob’s thing – this way he has of manipulating the people around him – it’s how he tried to control the world.
Jacob’s our Everyman. He’s you and me. We all have a thing. We all have something about ourselves that isn’t… could we say isn’t probably totally 100% the way we know we should be? A flaw in our character.
We don’t call it that… we say it’s a quirk. Or a habit. Or a personality trait. [Luchadore Masks with different wrestler names on them] Jacob was a liar, a manipulator. I get that because I’m a lot like he is. But maybe that’s not your thing. Maybe you have a temper. Or hold grudges. Maybe you’re too passive – we let people walk all over us. Or you spend all your time serving other people instead of letting your relationships be mutual. Maybe it’s something else.
Whatever our thing is, it’s how we interact with the world. Whenever Jacob felt unsure or uncomfortable, he manipulated people. What’s yours? How do you ensure that you feel good about life?
Deep down, we know this isn’t the best way to live.
If you lie, you know it’s not good – that’s why we made up the term “white lie”. If you have a temper, you know you should learn to control yourself better. If you’re a doormat, you know you should stand up for yourself. But we’re comfortable the way we are. We get by, and we’re not awful people. So we think, Eh… good enough.
But the reality is, good enough isn’t good enough. Those ways we are, our things, they’re actually keeping us trapped in Sin and Death.
They’re keeping us from becoming the person God calls us to be in Jesus. And, as we’ll see in Jacob’s story, God will break into our lives, through the shell we put up, to save and transform us.