My wife loves making lists, because she loves checking things off her list. Striking through task after task brings a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off that last item and heading for a well-earned rest. But wait, there is one more item – that stubborn one that is always there, yet never removed, never finished. You know the one I mean. Laundry work.
Laundry is never done. You may wash the last load and fold the last dishrag and smugly congratulate yourself in your victory over dirty clothes, then in a flash your family appears bearing those loads they have been holding back for “such a time as this.” And, thus it starts all over again. Laundry is never done. By definition, as long as we live in this fallen world where we are no longer naked and not ashamed, laundry is ever-awaiting.
In our household, “laundry work” is a ready metaphor for any job or experience in life that is always being done but never getting done. Life is filled with these, not the least of which is wrestling with God. Wrestling with what He has done, wrestling with what He has not done, wrestling with what he has called us to do and where He has called us to go. The trite slogan of evangelicalism is “Jesus is the Answer.” But for those who have heeded the call to follow Him, you have probably learned by now that “Jesus is the Question.” Following Him is a task unfinished, a pilgrim life which finds no permanent resting place in this world, except in Him. The life of the Christian is the life of wrestling with God, wrestling to cling to Him rather than to this world.
This is why modern-day Christians share the label “Israel,” with our forefathers in the faith. Because we, like Jacob of old wrestle, with God’s promises and His power and His calling. That wrestling is not a match, but a life. It does not go a few rounds until someone gets pinned. Jacob wrestled all night. But our wrestling is for a lifetime. Not a match, but a life. The Christian life, this wrestling with God, is laundry work. It is always being done, but never getting done.
After wrestling with God, Jacob returned to Canaan to take up residence in the land of promise. But life there was anything but promising. Joseph had been sold into slavery as a teenager and Jacob believed him to be dead. He resolved never to stop grieving and refused to be comforted. Meanwhile, Jacob’s others sons all lived wickedly and, like their uncle Esau, cared nothing for God or His promises. Their birthright meant nothing and they despised it. Jacob must have wondered if all the promises of God had failed. Had it all come to nothing? All the struggle, all the deception, all the conflict; what had it all been for? Then comes the shocking, heart-stopping word that Joseph is still alive and is in Egypt. All is arranged and Jacob is bidden to leave Canaan and go down to Egypt. Leave Canaan? Go to Egypt? All of Jacob’s life and the lives of his father and grandfather have been bound up in a commitment to remain in Canaan and never, ever go down to Egypt. Now Jacob is wrestling with two desires, two callings, and God’s will.
Join us for worship this Lord’s Day, September 2, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine Genesis 46 and consider from the life of Jacob, how we wrestle with God when his call seems at odds with our desires. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you there.