All Night Long: TorahCycle Vayishlach

Vayishlach2013Let’s get clear. I’m not an advocate of no-pain no-gain. If anything, I honor the high arts of bargaining, denial, procrastination, half-measures, and prayer as sincere, even fervent, alternatives to doing what needs to be done. That’s especially true if the focus isn’t my creative jones du jour, or involves self-discipline in any but brief or minor forms.

Enough about my failings. What about yours? Do you step up and do what’s needed, without avoidance? When you’re given dictums like Eat less, move more; or, Save more, spend less, do you hop to or look the other direction?

This week finds Jacob travelling to reconcile with the brother he wronged. He’s laden with gifts and an army, hedging his bets, as most of us do. We offer our adversary (self or other) both carrot and stick, hoping one will work if the other doesn’t. [Note: What’s a strategy to us might seem foolish or random to an observer. Without consistency, insights are harder to discern. Sigh.]

Jacob wrestles until dawn with a stranger, an angel. A silent and important emissary of the divine. Part of the message: step up, and don’t give up. If you do, you risk staying stuck wherever you are in your process, like when someone yells “Freeze!” in a childhood game.

Continuing until dawn doesn’t ensure a decisive victory. Jacob ends up with a permanent limp. But his name is changed to reflect his commitment and a big chunk of his old bad karma drops away. The message: If you actually work your program, something will change. Not exactly as you might predict or wish for, but for the better.

I’m fascinated by the wrestling metaphor. Not the bombastic faux battles of cable TV. But with the premise that no matter where we go, we’re always gonna come face-to-face with our stuff.

If you ask me to summarize the personal growth story, soul-wrestling would be its verb. It takes place in many domains, from deep dreamland to cold light of day. We are invited and frequent visitors.

Your adversary may wear the face of a mysterious stranger or someone you know. May come at you in a red satin cape or a clown costume, with flowers or with a chain saw. May sound like your internalized parent, a disappointed partner, or an angry boss. But your real nemesis is always your own stuff.

The good news: When our procrastinating and half measures fail, when we’re on the run from our failings, our higher selves show up to change the channel. To give us a real wrestling match. To help us find what we’re made of. And to send us on our way with a deeper knowledge of our own strength and possibilities.

We don’t always hang in. We’re scarred and scared and we sometimes give up, say Uncle. It’s okay.

We still have lots of wrestling ahead of us. But this reading reminds us that it’s time again to go deeper. To embrace your resolve and your endurance. To work your program. Wear your scars proudly; give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished. Then move forward not weakened by the struggle, but strengthened and renewed.

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