It’s been up against the wrong wall all this time. He’s climbed it faithfully, sweated, worked, dreamt, plotted, schemed… only to find that his endeavours have led him up a dark alley. Away from purpose and meaning and satisfaction. And now here he is, at the top of the wrong ladder, still disappointed, still scheming, still wondering what it’s all about. He’s spent so much of his life chasing the wrong things. Tricking and grabbing at the very things that only lead to more tricking and grabbing. When will it end, where will it end? He’s exhausted. Why is the well so dry? Why is the view up here so poor?
And so, he half slips, half tumbles down that ladder and collapses in the dirt. Listening to the rippling of the nearby river. Longing for the water to wash him clean. And for the first time in his life he utters a real prayer. Help. I’m scared. And lost. And empty. And the unthinkable happens, insult added to injury. Just when he’s down a stranger pitches up and kicks him. And now he’s fighting for his life. Dirty and sweaty and empty he’s wrestling in the dark. A fight he dare not lose, yet cannot win. And as the dawn breaks, and he’s so weary he has no strength to fight on, yet no strength to stop, the stranger asks him something, a question so raw, so profound that it wakes him up. A gust of fresh air blowing through the stale corridors of his life. Who are you? Who are you? Dare he answer? Dare he admit that he is Jacob, the grabber, the taker, the manipulator, the cheater?
A pause, a moment when nothing is breathing.
He’d better reply soon or he’ll pass out. He feels as if he’ll lose everything if he speaks, and yet, he suddenly realises… that’s what he wants. After all he’s been through, all he’s ‘gained’, all he’s lost in doing that ‘gaining’… it’s the way forward. An open door that only he can close. ‘Jacob,’ he admits, ‘I’m Jacob. The taker.’
Known, understood, welcomed. A new dawn.
And in the creeping light and fleeing shadows he is sure the stranger is nodding, and smiling. And there is the sound of a distant thud as a weight drops from Jacob’s shoulders. And the ladder falls from the wall. And so… hours later… as he trudges home, back to the brother who has vowed to kill him… his feet may be heavy, but his steps are light. He is a new man. A strangely free man. And his brother can see something has changed.
‘Jacob,’ Esau says, his arms wide, ‘why have you sent me all these presents? All this stuff? Were you trying to soften me up? I don’t need them. Have them back.’
And Jacob shakes his head. ‘Neither do I,’ he hears himself saying, ‘I’ve wrestled with God… and I have everything I need now.’