Me vs. The Almighty

There is a famous scene in the Bible where Jacob wrestles with God.  Jacob fights with God until God takes out a bone from Jacob's thigh. Interestingly, God eventually relents and stops fighting with Jacob. After this dramatic incident, Jacob is renamed Israel which literally means, "he who struggles with God."

I can relate to this story.  Many times in my life I have argued with God. I still do. (my wife can attest to that.) Many times I have criticized his tactics, his ways, and his wisdom. In my worst moments, I have even used choice language. I have a complicated relationship with God. Like Jacob, I have wrestled with God. (thigh bone still intact)

Recently I approached a priest friend of mine and told him of my struggles with God.  I expected that he would chide me for my lack of respect and informality. What this priest said was illuminating and encouraging. He told me that it was OK at times to be angry with God, God understood. He, in fact, encouraged this honesty and openness.  He wisely told me that the most important thing was to keep talking to God.

I am not attracted to perfect people or plastic saints.  I am drawn instead to those rugged, imperfect souls,  who like Jacob wrestle with God regularly; who have come out on the other side with a deeper, more genuine faith.

One of these imperfect people was Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash is one of my biggest role models. I love his music, but more importantly, I love his authentic faith. He was someone who wrestled with God regularly. As a young star, he was addicted to amphetamines, barbiturates and in spite of his great success had no real purpose in his life. In 1967 a severely depressed Cash entered a cave with a flashlight looking to end his life.  Johnny stayed in the cave until his flashlight's batteries ran out. Once the flashlight was off he was left in utter darkness.  In that darkness, Johnny came to the profound realization of God's mercy. He realized at that moment that even though he had left God, God had never left him.  After this profound revelation, Johnny spent his life glorifying God even while wrestling with him.

There are many different ways to become a saint, there is no one specific path.  God in his infinite wisdom meets us where we are. God loves us unconditionally and wants us to become the best versions of ourselves. The most important thing to do, like my priest friend, said is to keep the dialogue going.  Through this strange, unique dance we can emerge victoriously.

I couldn't manage the problems I laid on myself
And it just made it worse when I laid them on somebody else
So I finally surrendered it all brought down in despair
I cried out for help and I felt a warm comforter there

Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own
And each time I failed it made me feel twice as alone
Then I cried, "Lord there must be a sure and easier way
For it just cannot be that a man should lose hope every day."

And I came to believe in a power much higher than I
I came to believe that I needed help to get by
In childlike faith, I gave in and gave him a try
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.

-Johnny Cash from "I came to believe."


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