The story of Jacob’s wrestling with the stranger at the ford of Jabbok has always been one of the more evocative episodes in the Hebrew Bible. It has inspired visual artists from Rembrandt to Chagall, and is also the source material for what is arguably Charles Wesley’s greatest hymn, Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown. In the May - August 2008 issue of Homily Service, Rev. John E. Smith reflected upon its value as an illustration of the value of tenacity.
It is a constant pastoral encouragement to parishioners: “Tenacity is everything.” Are you dealing with doctors and hospitals and diagnostic tests? Tenacity is everything. Are you looking for work, getting discouraged by rejection? Tenacity is everything. Experience teaches that those who don’t give up, who won’t settle for less, who endure to the end of the race, get there. They find the job, get the diagnosis and treatment, and finish the race. Those who quit stop short of the goal.
Passing by Lorenzo’s Oil I love the example from the movie, Ordinary People. Two teens are in therapy after attempting suicide. The troubled boy, who continues therapy, who challenges his mother, who talks about his frailty, who keeps talking and confronts others with his pain, survives. The untroubled girl who is doing just great, who claims, “Everything’s fine,” who discontinues therapy, who never allows her pain to be in any way obvious, ends us succeeding on her second suicide attempt. The striving is productive: tenacity is everything.
People of faith who stop striving with God, who give up on the blessing, cease to be people of faith who have encountered the face of God.
John E. Smith is the pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.