There is a biblical narrative in Genesis 32 where Jacob is engaged for a night in a divine wrestling match.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks. But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
The text suggests that the Angel initiated the engagement and Jacob fought valiantly all through the night. But lest we think that Divinity could not handle a mere man, the Angel touches the socket of Jacob’s hip to show how easily He could defeat him. Jacob again struggles and labors and seeks a blessing from the Divine Being. The Angel condescends and blesses Jacob and gives him a new name – Israel. Israel because he struggled with God and with men, and prevailed.
There is much to bring out in the text, the One who wrestles with Jacob is the preincarnate Christ, the name change, etc. But one of the things that stands out to me is Jacob’s tenaciousness in laying hold of the Angel and not letting go until the blessing comes. Jacob’s wrestling with God is a picture. Wrestling is a terribly difficult and physically exhausting sport, perhaps like no other. I wrestled my freshman year of high school and I hated it. It was too demanding.
Prayer is to the spiritual realm what wrestling is to the physical realm – at least it can be. Matthew Henry writes, “A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helps our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer.”
Okay, okay – what does all this have to do with my adoption hero? Well, everything. I have never met someone so doggedly determined to lay hold of a blessing from God like my wife. I can remember her dragging me to adoption fairs in our early 20s. You can read more about our adoption journey here:
She was relentless. She would read Scriptures to me that she came across in her daily Bible reading. She would remind me often of God’s heart for the orphan, our own adoption by the Father through Christ and most importantly, she would pray. I’m not talking perfunctory prayers spoken to a god who may or may not be there. My wife’s prayers were bathed in Scripture promises, offered humbly to the ear of the Almighty through the meritorious death of Christ on the cross. She would wrestle, she would lay hold at times in tears, and it was as if she would not let go until she received her blessing.
Her wrestling didn’t last a night though. She wrestled for nearly two decades through major disappointments and heartbreaks. The Lord would seem to open a door and then close a door. Not because He is cruel and wanted to string April along, but because it was best for her and us at the time. Because God is good and does good, we had every confidence that He would bless if and when He saw fit. April coined a phrase that began to stick – ‘adoption infertility’. That’s what she had.
But she was patient. She never questioned or blamed God. She simply trusted that He would, if and when He saw fit, give her this tremendous desire of her heart. She was also exceedingly patient with her at times dull, cold-hearted husband. I would come up with excuses like “But we’ve already had 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 children, it seems like enough to me. We’re in a good spot right now. We’re in a bad spot right now. There is no way we can afford it. Our youngest or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 – isn’t it nice to not have toddlers or teethers or change diapers, etc?” April would meet my objections with reasonableness, love, tenderness and Scripture. That four-fold strand cannot be easily broken! 🙂
April continued to patiently knock on the door. When there was no door, she would look for a window. When there was no window, she would take an axe and seek to cut a new door that she could knock on! Again, she was fervent. She wrestled. She prayed. And she did not lose heart.
The Lord was pleased to give her this great desire of her heart.
And I get to look back as the beneficiary of her wrestlings and see that God not only blessed her, but in His wonderfully mangificent way – blessed me and all of our children and who knows who else. I am, in the best way, proud of her. Proud of her perseverance by grace. Proud of her vibrant faith and vital attachment to her Savior. Proud of her wrestling. Proud of her patience. Proud of her love. Proud of how she has mothered and raised our other children. Proud.
She has proven well this quote, “What matters is not that we do all we might have done or all we dreamed of doing, but that, while we live, we live by faith in future grace and walk in the path of love. The times are in God’s hands, not ours.”
Proverbs 31:29 “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”