I was talking to a friend recently about Lectio Divina and mentioned how I like to use the image of having a piece of chocolate in my mouth and letting it melt slowly - savouring each moment. His response? 'I think I'll imagine it with single malt whisky!' Now, there's a thought!
If you don't know what Lectio Divina is and would like a simple set of instructions (including the chololate bit), then try this. If you're a seasoned expert(!) then please read on...
The story of Jacob wrestling with a man/angel/God at the Ford of Jabbok has, in the past, moved me very deeply. It is a inspiring reading for the Lenten season and so I am suggesting that you read it using this method of Lectio Divina. Lectio is a way of praying the scriptures rather than studying the scriptures, so take a little time first to find a quiet, comfortable spot and to still your body and mind as much as possibke.
Remember - read the passage slowly a couple of times, then dwell on the part that speaks to you the most.
Jacob, having years before shamelessly swindled his brother Esau, is about to meet him again for the first time since the debacle. He is nervous and unsure of what sort of welcome he will receive. So he plans a little party of people to go ahead and 'soften' his brother's heart with gifts. After they leave, he settles down to sleep....
From Genesis 32
He instructed the foremost, ‘When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, “To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?” then you shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.” ’ He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you shall say, “Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’ For he thought, ‘I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’
Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
What was going on for Jacob during that night, that dream, that vision. Guilt? Struggle for acceptance? For self-acceptance?
Perhaps the Anchor Bible Dictionary summarises it well in suggesting that the ‘unnamed man symbolizes every person with whom Jacob struggled — Esau, Isaac, Laban — and yet, the man at the beginning of the story is certainly God at the end…. The story, therefore, in an overt polyvalence, blends Jacob’s conflict with people and with God into one event.’
Every person with whom he struggled should also, of course, include himself.
May God's blessing be upon and within you this Lent.