My gift was cleverness, and I used it to full advantage. Even my name meant, "to grasp" and grasp I did. From my brother's heel at birth to our competitiveness as children, I was always reaching for more. I was never content, always looking for a way to win. Encounters were never what they appeared to be. I was lurking in a constant undercurrent of planning and scheming to further my own interests.
I never had a conversation without an agenda. I never did anything unless it benefited me directly. It was manipulative, but that was the way of the world. I wasn't strong like my brother; I had to find my own strength in unexpected ways.
With Esau, that was surprisingly easy; he was a man of passion and lived entirely for the moment. When I tricked his birthright from him with a bowl of soup, I played on his hunger and weakness. I took advantage of his simple nature and robbed him of things beyond his ability to apprehend.
It even worked with our father, Isaac, as I deceived him in his blindness and old age into blessing me above my brother. I wanted that blessing, and I was willing to do anything to get it.
Lie. Cheat. Steal. Scheme. It was evil and I knew it.
Eventually, my deceptive lines came back to steal years of my life. Laban had used my own trick to press Leah into my family. He let me think I was entering into covenant with the one that I loved, but instead finding my pledge was made to deception. I deserved that one. It was poetic justice for my own choices, and my second seven years of labor were bitter ones.
Now it had all come to an end. Esau was about to cross my path again, and I was all out of ideas. I tried to prepare the way with gifts and bribes to soften him toward me, but it was no use. He was coming in force to meet me, and I was terrified at what he would do to my family. Esau wasn't subtle. The message of the men coming with him wasn't lost on me.
I was broken and I was done. I divided us into groups, hoping my death would buy time for at least some of my children to escape. It was time to pay the price and ultimately, I would find myself at his mercy. With no other choice, I cried out to God. And I meant it.
It was in the dead of night, hours before I was to meet my brother again.
A man who was not a man met me and we wrestled. There was no time for talk. There was no room for clever schemes or prepared deception. We fought and I could find no advantage. There was no insight; no measured words of diplomacy or charm, and all my weapons were stripped away to sweat and desperation. There was no agenda, only the moment. And I threw myself headlong into pure struggle.
It was the most honest moment of my life.
Minutes turned into hours as the spiritual weight of the moment crushed my heart into dust. The uncertainty of my fate at the strong, heavy hands of my brother had left me weary to the point of exhaustion. The man kept coming, and nothing I did could fend him off.
Then he touched my hip and I buckled. I literally felt the internal working of my bone and sinew wrench violently out of place. It felt like unraveling and my vision went white with the effort, but I held on. I held until the whole world faded into a single purpose and everything else faded away. I was not giving up, no matter what.
And just like that, it was over. I knew I was in the presence of God.
Filled with power, he spoke to me a blessing and gave me my true name. As the day broke into light, I was born again. The grasping and dishonesty of my old life faded with the dew. I named the place Face of God, for I had met Him and in His presence He spared my life.
When I went out to meet Esau, I met him with a limp.
He had forgiven me for the things I had done. Oddly, it was good to see my brother. It was good to put that chapter of my life to rest in resolution.
My life was different after that and I strove to be a man worthy of the name He had given. Those days of sifting left a mark on my soul and a change in my ability to walk as a reminder. The lesson was simple, but it took me a lifetime to learn: Desperately grasp onto the blessing of God, in humility, in integrity and in the fullness of His truth.
My real inheritance and my true name came not through scheming but through perseverance and simple faith that hangs on even when it hurts.
"But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome" (Genesis 32:26b-28).