When we gaze into the eyes of someone we love and cherish, it’s hard not to see God. The light we see in these faces, and the love they evoke in us, reminds us of God’s loving, sustaining presence in our lives.
But when we feel alone or abandoned, it’s hard to imagine that God is near. In these dark nights, when our minds are filled with worries and questions and our hearts ache with fear and loneliness, God seems utterly absent.
And so for Jacob. On the run from the estranged brother he betrayed, separated from his family and children, he probably feels abandoned by God too. But when Jacob is left there alone in that dark night, God finds him and wrestles with him until dawn. And when the morning light arrives, Jacob discovers that the place of struggle and loneliness and pain has become the privileged place where he saw God face-to-face.
Our lives, like Jacob’s, are complicated, a mixed bag of the good we’ve done and the pain we’ve caused, of blessings we’ve received and betrayals we’ve experienced. But it is precisely in the midst of this very human mess that God arrives, unbidden, to intimately draw us into the exhausting work of transformation.
How can we know that the God of Jacob has visited us? When we can look at the whole of our lives, the light and the darkness, the love and the loneliness, and see God looking at us, face-to-face.
Michael J. Sanem, “A Painful and Privileged Place” from the July 2021 issue of Give Us This Day www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2021). Used with permission
Reflection on Genesis 28:10-22a