Content by Rev. Micah James, CCA
“24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27 So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ 29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.” – Genesis 32:247-29 NRSV
In some ways the story of Jacob wrestling and wounding is the story of my call to ministry and ultimately the story of my view of the world. Jacob didn’t invite the confrontation, nor did he truly prosper. Jacob was left wounded and blessed by the encounter. Such is the story of my call to be a faithful steward. Time after time, I have been met with confrontation and been left wounded, yet I continue my pursuit.
When I was young, I always wondered why things weren’t done more efficiently or effectively. I was frustrated by the waste of resources or talent. I distinctly remember a basketball season, one where I ran in the middle of the pack, looking at the most talented and attitude-filled girl on our team and saying to my Dad, “if I had her talent and my passion, things could happen.”
Throughout my life I have been invited to conversation after conversation wrestling with the gifts and resources of this group or that and trying to figure out how to make them work. I have never been the best at anything, but I was always the one with the strategy or plan to “make it work”.
My call to preach and teach stewardship is both my blessing and my wound. How can someone who is not the best steward teach about stewardship? We have all heard the pastoral advice, “Don’t preach about stewardship until you can do it yourself.” Well, in my case (and I am betting in many of yours), with that as a guiding principle we would never get to talk about stewardship. At least stewardship as it has traditionally been defined, as giving of your financial resources.
I knew very early on that my call to ministry would be helping congregations, community groups, leadership cohorts and the like look at the variety of gifts (financial, talent, time, etc) in their midst and figuring out how to use those gifts to serve God the best way they could. At the very same time, I have struggled, most of my adult life to be that faithful comprehensive steward in which I speak and teach. In the midst of all my struggles, I continue to strive to be a faithful steward.
In some ways this has led me to one of my theological and practical assertions, that if you are incredibly passionate about something then it is probably the place where you also experience the most brokenness and challenge. I for one, with high expectations on stewardship, have yet to meet my own expectations perfectly. Maybe all of that is because in the midst of our most passionate places, we are still fractured people in need of grace.
I go back to Jacob’s wrestling. It is in the very unexpected places that challenge us that we find our passion, but if we don’t tell the full story of our own struggle and brokenness in the midst of that passion then the whole thing come tumbling down in the end.
So in your ministry, wrestle, struggle, and question – and do it openly. Your community needs to see that you too, are human, are broken, and are imperfect. The perfection of the gospel is not yours to embody, but to strive for and you congregation needs to see the difference.