There is a sense in which Jacob in this
passage serves as a model for all of us
who have been going through things others don’t
see, showing up looking like we planned to get
there all along. But they don’t really
know what you went through to get there,
do they? They don’t really know what
you went through to show up at the
job every day last week, do they?
And you would never tell them that.
To tell them what you went through to
get there would make you feel a little
vulnerable and insecure because you
don’t think you’re supposed to fight,
because nobody else shows you their fight.
You only see the fragments of their lives that
shine through a screen light. So, through
the light of the screen, you can’t really
see the struggles other people deal with. So
now here you are in your life feeling like,
“Oh, I feel like I’m a little behind. Oh, I
feel like I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”
Who says you’re not where you’re supposed
to be? “Well, I’m not where they are.” Well,
how do you know where they are really? You
don’t know what they dealt with last night.
You don’t know what they were doing last night.
You don’t know what’s going through their mind
right now. So why would I compare myself with
somebody I can’t see through? I think it’s worse
than ever for our kids, because now I have to
compare myself to the whole world at all times.
When I first started learning how to play
guitar, I just had to be better than my
friends in Moncks Corner who also played
guitar. There were three. Now I have to
look at a 4-year-old in Japan who can play
“Stairway to Heaven” left-handed on one
string. I saw it. And just about when you think
you’re doing pretty good, here comes somebody.
Y’all, there is a man in our neighborhood… I
testify. God as my witness, I am not lying.
When we walked by his house yesterday, he
was putting up his Christmas lights. Pray for
all of the dysfunctional people who are clapping
for that like that’s normal. That’s a demon.
That’s a childhood trauma. That needs
therapy, because it’s November 5. It
just got cold three hours ago, and you’re
blasting “Simply having a wonderful…” He
had music playing in his yard. All of the kids
were out there. Nobody was fighting. I was like,
“What’s wrong with me? I don’t even
know where we keep our Christmas
lights. Holly is in charge of that.
I’m not a man. I’m not a good man.”
When my kids started playing
sports, I thought, “Well,
maybe I’ll coach their team.” They started
playing baseball. I found out really quick
the standards for coaching Little League
baseball have changed since I played Little
League baseball. It used to be “Show up.
Don’t be drunk. Don’t yell at the ump.”
My dad coached my team, and he didn’t
ever play baseball, didn’t know about
baseball. He went to the library and checked out
a book. I used to see him reading the book. “How
to Coach Little League Baseball.” Times have
changed. He bought a rule book. He memorized
the rule book. He was out there teaching
us to play baseball. The team was worse
than he was. All he’d let us do the whole
season was bunt because we were that bad.
So, I’m out there thinking, “Well, maybe I could
coach the team. Maybe I could go to the library,
go over to the card catalog, get a
little book, and learn how to coach,
and maybe that would be a good memory for
the kids.” Man, I don’t remember if they
were 5 or 7 or 9. I don’t remember exactly.
It’s all blurry. But they started talking to
me pretty much before the boys were in middle
school. “You got them on a travel team yet?”
I’m like, “A who what? I’m doing good to
get them out there for every practice.” “No,
if you don’t have them on a travel
team…” This is what the man pulled
me aside and explained. “If you don’t
have them on a travel team by age 10,
they’ll fall behind. They won’t even be able
to make the middle school team.” I said, “Wow!
Looks like you’re not making the middle school
team. Better learn to wrestle or something.”
There’s nothing bad about travel teams or
elite teams or AAU or any of that. That’s
all wonderful…except when your whole
life begins to kind of feel like that,
where I feel like I’m behind, and I don’t
even know how I got behind, but it seems
like everybody knows something, has something,
sees something, and can do something I can’t do.
What I realized about Jacob’s life, as
the sun was rising and he was limping,
is he was born feeling behind. In the literal
birth order of Jacob and Esau (they were twins),
separated by only a few seconds, Jacob was
only going to get one-third of the inheritance,
because that’s the way it worked in those days.
When he was born, he came out grabbing his
brother’s heel. That’s what the name Jacob
means. It means heel grabber. There was
something in him even in the womb that
was wrestling against his brother, something
that felt like, “I’m behind, and I can’t be
behind.” For all of his clutching and grasping
at his brother’s heel, he still came out second.
Now, at age 90, he’s very blessed because
he has stolen a blessing and a birthright
from his blind father Isaac, yet there’s
a wrestling match that happens on his way
to reconcile with Esau. It has been 20 years
since he has seen him. As he’s getting ready
to go and face Esau and make it right with
Esau (he hopes, because Esau could kill him),
an angel appears and wrestles him to
the point where his hip is wrenched.
He leaves the presence of the angel to face
his brother, and the only evidence he has
that he has met with God is his limp. We think
the evidence that we’ve been with God is that
our situation gets better. We then take all
of the evidence other people present to us of
how good their life is, and compared to them
putting up their Christmas lights in April…
Compared to them whose kids are always on
a field somewhere getting better and better
with hitting coaches and batting cages, and we
can barely afford to buy the bat to begin with,
so how would we pay for the private
coaching lessons if we could… I came
to announce to you today that nothing
in your life is originated divinely by
your comparison to people, only
by your commitment to purpose.
The starting place for contentment is commitment
to purpose. Why is that important? Because the
alternative to commitment to purpose is comparison
to people. If I’m comparing myself to people,
I’m always grabbing heels. If I’m comparing
myself to people, I’m always feeling either
better than or less than, but neither
of those will bring you close to God.
If I’m comparing myself to people, I’ll
always feel like I was born behind,
and here’s why: because
everybody in here has a limp,
but some limps are more easily hidden
than others. Some limps show up later in
life. Some limps show up privately. Some
limps show up in intimate relationships.
Some limps show up in an inability to hold down
a job. Some limps have catastrophic results.
Some limps have insidious effects that no
one can see. Some limps you carry alone,
but everybody came in here limping.
Yeah, you came, but you’re limping.
You’ve been limping this week. It has been
a long week because you’ve been limping.
“I’m limping. I’m here, but I’m limping.
I love God, but I’m limping.” I’m bringing
this back from last week because something
needs to break in our lives to where we
stop showing up on Sunday and don’t get
what we really need from God because we
don’t want anybody to see where we really
limp, or where you stop coming to church
every time you have to limp in because you
feel too guilty. That’s how shame operates.
The time when you need to drag your behind to
this church the most is the time where you’ve
done the dumbest stuff in your life and you
say, “God, I need a course correction. God,
I need you to top me off. I need you to fill
me. I feel empty. I feel crazy. I don’t feel
like myself.” Limp in here and see if the
Lord won’t lift you up. The Bible says,
“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of
God, and in due time he’ll lift you up.”
Watch this. Somebody say, “The light is coming.”
It’s a new day dawning on Jacob. The sun is coming
up over Jacob. The night is over. The wrestling is
over. The struggle is over. He has let go of his
old self. He has received a new name. He has been
touched and transformed by God. He is carrying
destiny. He is on his way to his purpose, but he’s
limping, because the light doesn’t stop the limp.
Just because you know doesn’t mean you can do it.
Just because God shows you who he’s calling you to
be doesn’t mean you yet have the courage to do it.
Everything I’ve become in my life, everything I’ve
accomplished in my life that was worthwhile
for God, I confess to you, I limped into.
What are you limping into today? The
light is coming and Jacob is limping,
and those are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes
we get confused. We think when the light comes,
the limping stops. We think when we see Jesus,
meet Jesus, receive Jesus, grow in Jesus,
that means we’re automatically going to accelerate
and reach the place where he has called us to be.
The evidence of this meeting with Jesus
was a limp that never left Jacob’s life.
I suggest to you that some of the times of the
greatest light will also be the times of the
greatest limp. The Bible says Jacob limped all
the way to the place where he met his brother.
Sidenote: you can get there limping. Where
God has taken you, where he’s calling you,
what he’s drawing out of you, what he’s
using you to do, what he’s moving you into,
how he’s maturing you, how he’s growing
you… It might not be pretty. That’s all
right. Nobody’s is. All of the pretty
people just have really hidden limps.
Some of the people with the biggest strut are
compensating for something that they’re dragging
behind them. Now, imagine you’re Jacob. And maybe
this is how you feel in your life. He’s coming
up on something that is the most important
meeting he has ever had. If this goes badly,
Esau kills him. The stakes are high. How many
would say that’s high stakes? And it’s not like
it’s even going to be a close call because Esau
is a skilled hunter. Jacob is a skilled cook.
By the way, that’s part of the reason
Jacob felt very insecure in his life:
he never had his father’s love. His
father loved Esau. One of the reasons
he pretended to be his brother was to
get the love of a father who expected
him to be something he could never become
because it wasn’t according to his purpose.
Jacob isn’t just limping at age 90; he has been
limping all of his life because of the love he
didn’t get from the only one who could really
confer a blessing on him. He’s limping. See,
there is a reason. If in your life
you’re not who you’re supposed to be yet,
there’s a reason for that. There’s an explanation
for it. “Yeah, I would love to be a better wife,
but it’s hard for me because I didn’t
see that modeled. I’ve been limping.”
“I would love to be a more patient person,
but I grew up in a family where people
exploded with their temper. I am trying
to unlearn that template so I can change
it and turn it around so my kids don’t live
with my limp.” “I wish I was farther along,
and I wish I had saved more money, but
nobody taught me how to do this thing,
so I went into debt trying to
compensate for the love I didn’t get.
I went into debt trying to compensate
for the approval I didn’t get. I’ve
been limping my whole life. I’ve been
struggling my whole life.” The truth of
it is some of the people who are critical
of you would celebrate you if they could
understand how hard it was for you
to get to this point with your limp.
Don’t let them intimidate you when they show you
their dance, because everybody limps somewhere.
They’re not farther along than you; they’re
just called to a different place than you so
they have a different pace from you. So, when
you get there on Thanksgiving and they say,
“I thought you’d be married by now,” say,
“I thought you would have learned how to
pray and let God lead me by now and stop
trying to manipulate my life. I’m not late.