I’m gonna be brutally honest—I’ve ALWAYS been really good at striving. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been awesome at figuring out ways to finagle life to get what I wanted. And that biblical picture of Jacob grabbing onto God’s heal is my metaphorical picture for the way I used to live my life.
I carry that symbolic picture with me now in my mental wallet—a reminder of what NOT to do. It’s the picture of the old me, the old man, the one that wrestled and struggled through life SO afraid.
I used to wrestle with God—just like Jacob, trying to take the blessing from Him that He already wanted to give me. Striving. Stubborn. Holding tightly to people, pursuits, and agendas that I just couldn’t let go of and entrust into His hands.
My fingers were wrapped SO tightly around everything: marriage, parenting, friendships, finances, etc. I was desperately afraid to trust and let go. Anything that I couldn’t control felt wildly unsafe.
Nothing was left untouched—striving’s fingerprints were everywhere.
I didn’t understand the concept of RESTING in God. I couldn’t rest because I had never learned TRUST. And I couldn’t trust because I wasn’t FULLY settled that God’s intentions for me were logistically good.
My mindset was that I had to make things happen.
I truly believed (though I didn’t see it at the time) that if I didn’t fight and strive to get what I wanted, then I would be left deprived and all alone. In the most basic cells of my belief system, I didn’t believe that God actually WANTED to be involved in the dailies of my entire life.
I didn’t know Him then as I do now—as my Destiny Creator and Facilitator. It took me a while before I came to understand that He was MORE invested in my destiny than even I was; and that He actually carried the heavier load to bring it to fulfillment.
So I spent a lot of years toiling unproductively in various pursuits. Working hard by the sweat of my striving to put into play what God was already offering.
Performance and perfectionism saturated my life. Grace was thrown in the mix somewhere. But the waters were just too muddied by so much law-mindedness.
Indoctrinated into perfectionistic behaviors at such a young age, I was completely blind to the reality of my own belief systems. Performance was the only language I had known. So when I met Jesus, I just transferred these works-based mindsets and behaviors over into the world of Christendom.
I lived with a dualistic mindset for decades.
On the one hand, I passionately believed and proclaimed the existence of a loving God who provided for His children. But on the other, I wasn’t actually seeing the fruit of my own belief system—so I would step in to MAKE SURE things happened.
I grabbed at God’s (and others’) heels every chance I could get.
I wouldn’t say that I was a total parasite or user. But I definitely used to live with a lot of hidden motives and agendas. And even though I’ve since reconciled with myself and others for my past behaviors, I still cringe when I think of some of my striving snafus that hurt other people.
Some of those people still view me through a Jacob lens—even though I believe I’ve moved onto my Israel identity. I’m not the old me anymore. And I’ve had to surrender the responsibility for my reputation over to God.
It’s one of those sticky striving traps to think that I can carry the weight of that one on my own.
And during my LONG season of striving, my belief system as a Christian didn’t do me much good because I lived pragmatically—solving problems through logic and reason. I was double dipping.
I didn’t SEE much supernatural fruit in my life because I was still living from a humanistic, secular orientation. I ate mostly from the Tree of Knowledge.
But my entire life began to shift when I started to pursue intimacy with God instead of performance. I began to invite Him into my situations and partner with where He was going, rather than trying to figure things out by myself. THAT was when the supernatural fruit began to fall in my life.
I found that the fruit from the Tree of Life was much sweeter.
In God’s wooing pursuit of intimacy, the scales of performance and striving eventually melted away. I found myself changed in name and nature in the light of His presence and love.
Striving had served me well as a child in order to survive. But it was a mask. And as an adult, that mask actually hindered my relationship with God. He wanted to know the true me behind the mask.
Some may still call me Jacob—but I know what my true name is in Heaven.
You have a true name as well.
“Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28).