I have spent the better part of the last hour watching my professor's wonderful lecture on Jacob for one of my seminary classes. One of her conclusions struck me: "We all come away limping in our relationship with God both in ways we can see and in ways we can't." I will continue to think about that idea, since I see limping as a bad thing.
But what if limping isn't bad? What if limping forces us to slow down in ways that are good? Maybe limping helps us develop compassion. I know that it has for me. I think of days of arthritis flares in my feet. One day, as I left a building and thought with despair about how far away I had parked, I reflected on all the times I've felt disdain for those who will circle the parking lot, waiting for the closest spots to come available. As I limped back to my car, I felt new empathy for those people.
My professor finished her lecture by talking about faces throughout the story of Jacob. Early on, Jacob puts on a persona; he hides behind a face that isn't authentic. At the end of the story, he is able to be fully present, as he reconciles with his brother Esau. This ability to be present opens up new possibilities. Jacob moves from persona to presence to possibility. The poet in me loves that repetition of the letter p.
My professor also talked about how she approaches this story when she preaches it. She has the members of the congregation turn to their pewmates, to people who aren't their families. She has them say to each other what Esau says to Jacob: "Truly to see your face is to see the face of God." She talked about how moving it is for people to hear that said to them.
I would love to experiment with varieties of that experience when it's safe to be that close together again. Maybe in the intervening time, we could do it with mirrors, although I shudder at the cost if the congregation is large.
I am also imagining how the world might change if more of us trained ourselves to see the face of God in everyone, not just hearing that our own face reflects God.