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Struggling With God
Struggling With God
In your videos and podcasts, you don’t exactly tell us what you mean by what you term “the baggage-laden GEE-OH-DEE word.” What do you mean? I don’t know what (the) God (of my understanding) is. I’m struggling with God.
Might you tell me a little more?
-Struggling With God
Wonderful, wonderful for asking.
I thank you.
This is one of my favorite topics.
Let me tell you a little about the struggle with God. It’s real.
The name Yisrael
In the Biblical story, the forefather Jacob had the name Jacob until he had a fitful night in which he couldn’t sleep. It’s a great tale. He was about to meet up with his brother, who he hadn’t seen since he stole his inheritance years earlier. Jacob is awake, not able to sleep, dreading the morning. Thinking about his brother’s enormous army just across the valley.
That night, the story goes, Jacob wrestled with an angel – all night he wrestled with God.
(I purposely wrote “an angel” and then “God.” I made it seem like the two might be synonymous because the Biblical text reads like that.)
At the end of the night of wrestling, when the sun came up, the angel / God demands to be let go, and Jacob said he would let the angel / God go but only if he (Jacob) was given a blessing. And, as part of the blessing, Jacob’s name is changed to יִשְׂרָאֵל Yisrael. Yisrael means “struggles with God.”
Struggles (not struggled) with God – because that’s how the name is in the Hebrew. Rabbinic tradition is that his name was not changed to struggled with God, past tense, but struggles with God, present tense, because struggling with God is something we continue to do.
I have found, in my life in working with people about their theology, that this is one of the most common things people do.
We grapple with our theology from time to time.
Cause that’s what people do.
And, that’s probably what you do too.
Packaging God very neatly – IMHO – is to say you have all the answers. God doesn’t come neatly packaged. Except for this religious novelty I created that clergy folk love to use as conversation starters – God-in-a-Box.
If you have God questions and want to do some work on your theology, might I suggest spiritual direction – some regular time to delve into your theology?
Or, pick up “My Fun Theology workbook.” It’s a book that I wrote so you can do spiritual direction in convenient book form.
(From time to time I organize a group to explore this topic together. Let me know if you are interested.)
Struggling with God? I’m in favor.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer