Sometimes I wonder if the things I do are normal -- if other people think the same things I think. Is it normal for other people to live like I live? Then I start to wonder if I’m asking the right question; “Are others like me?” Maybe I should be asking: “Am I like me?” God created me to be me; “Am I being me?”
A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away -- in the Old Testament, there is a story about this guy named Jacob. The Bible talks a lot about Jacob. He’s apparently important. I mean, most people the Bible discusses a lot are important, like Jesus, and Adam, and Paul, and Honey Badgers… So, Jacob.
There were these guys named Jacob, his twin-brother Esau and their dad Isaac. Esau was the oldest, and Jacob was younger. In that day, the oldest got the blessing from their parents. That basically meant they would get a larger portion of the inheritance. So, Jacob obviously wanted it, and he played a trick on his Dad to get it. Esau, his brother, was a burly man with hairy arms who liked to hunt and fish and gallop across the stars, and his dad, Isaac, preferred him. Jacob was more quiet and liked to stay indoors among the tents, but he was preferred by their mom, Rebekah.
When Isaac was old and blind, he called Isaac in and told him to hunt some wild game, cook it for him, and feed it to him so he could get “God’s blessing.” So he hurried away to do that, but Rebekah overheard. Rebekah, being the parent that preferred Jacob, told Jacob to kill the best goat and feed it to Isaac so he would get the blessing. So Jacob did it before Esau could. Jacob wasn’t ready to be Jacob. He wanted the blessing promised to the older brother.
So, then we fast forward. Jacob was traveling around with his family and servants. They came to a river, and he stayed back until suddenly a man comes up and challenges him to a wrestling match -- WWE style. They went at it all night until just before daybreak. Jacob was about to pin the man, but he was like no way Jose
, and touched his hip, wrenching it, dislocating it, and messing it up. He was like shoot son I’ll show you
. Then the man asked Jacob very politely to let him go, but Jacob wouldn’t until he got blessed. Then the man asked Jacob what his name was.
Back then your name meant more than just words. It was your identity. People knew your character just from your name. Your name was indicative of the person you were, your substance, what made you, you.
After Jesus rose from the dead, he was talking to Peter. He asked Peter if he really loved him. Peter obviously told him yes. So He told Peter to feed his sheep, and Peter was really confused. He actually asked the question three times to Peter. Then Peter, still confused, asked, “What about him?” -- referring to another disciple. Peter really was hard-headed. He didn’t get it. Jesus responded, “What is that to you?”
Jesus was saying that the other disciples calling -- how God plans to use him -- was really none of Peter’s business. Jesus was only trying to get Peter on board. He wanted Peter to feed his sheep. The other disciple wasn’t of any importance in that moment, because God was working in Peter.
We all have a unique calling. We are all created differently, but we focus on those differences. Some of us were created smarter, or more athletic, or as better musicians, or with a different body type. Those differences don’t make us any better or worse, they are just differences. Even with the world telling you your differences are important, they aren’t.
Each of you was created by God; the Bible tells us that God forms us in the womb. You were created by God to do something amazing. You have to allow God.
In the book of Proverbs it says: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” When we are envious of other people, when we are jealous of them, it destroys us, and it inhibits God from working in us.
You see, Jacob’s struggle is much like that of most our struggle. “Who are you?” When we embrace our differences, our past, our history, when we embrace our story, and make it our own. We embrace the question, “What is your name?”
I have often times wished I was someone else, or something else. I’ve wished I was smarter, more athletic, wittier, a better musician, or just a plain better person. When I do that, when we all do that, we aren’t embracing our story. When we wish we are something else, God asks us, “What is to you?”
What does it matter if Betty Sue is the smartest girl in all of the Shire, or John is the most rock and roll guy I know? What does it matter? We, each and every one of us have our own paths, our own stories.
When we ask the question, “Who am I?” We focus on who we aren’t. We aren’t some things. I’m not an acrobat, I can’t even touch my toes! I’m not a molecular engineer, or a videographer. I’m simply Travis.
I know that mistakes happen in our lives. Believe me, I’ve made a few, but they don’t define you. Mistakes and sin are as “far as the East is from the West;” the Bible promises us that. Life gets better. Our sin doesn’t stick with us. It doesn’t define us.
So, back to Jacob. When he was asked his name by the mysterious man, he replies, “I’m Jacob.” Jacob overcame God and was finally ready to be Jacob. That man blessed Jacob, and actually renamed him Israel, which means one who struggles with God. In that moment Jacob was finally ready to take up the calling on his life as a father of a nation. Through Jacob’s lineage, God would build a nation.
Just like Jacob and Peter, we need to be saved from times when we aren’t our true selves. When we think that we aren’t good enough, or that other people are better. Other people aren’t better -- they are just different. The miracles God does in your life are going to be so great, it doesn’t matter what others do. What is to you?
I know it’s hard. I’ve definitely struggled with it, but God saves us when we don’t think of ourselves as worthy. God is doing amazing things in all of us -- this much I know. There is hope in God, hope that life gets better. That just because I don’t feel good enough, or that Susie Jay seems better than me, doesn’t mean it’s true. God has a plan for your life, and I pray that all of you could see it through. I pray that we could all embrace our stories that God is writing for our lives. That we embrace our history, our mistakes, our sin, and make it our own. What’s normal for you isn’t normal for everyone.What is the significance of your name? Do you have a sense of a unique path or calling on your life? What does it mean for you to claim your history?