Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Bit of Exegesis in the Manner of the Eastern Fathers

This piece was written by Frank Valdez and is posted for the benefit of my blog readers and Facebook friends, JF

In the book of Genesis, Jacob struggles with the Angel of the LORD at Peniel. When the Angel of the Presence touches him his thigh is put out of joint. Yet it is at that point that he is given the name Israel because he has prevailed with God. At the end of the book of Genesis, when Israel blesses his descendants, he leans on his staff. The touch of the Divine Presence crippled Jacob so that his walk was permenantly affected; he became a cripple and walked with a limp.
It is this that made him Israel, one who prevailed with God.

There are those who are sometimes called "emotional cripples" by others. I may have had the privilege of being so labeled from time to time myself. They are people whose experience of life has broken their hearts.As a result they may not walk as well as others;i.e. they may not be as efficient, successful, fashionable and cool as many middle class Christians expect everyone to be. They may be in frequent and unacceptably visible suffering. They may not make "normal" people very comfortable. They soon get the message that they are not really wanted and stop showing up. Their disappearance may be a sign of judgement.

The Greek Fathers understood spiritual growth as deification. It is our being remade in the cruciform image of God in Christ.
Perhaps the broken, the insulted, and the injured are not the outliers of true Christianity. To be touched by the cruciform God entails heartbreak. It entails being crippled as Jacob was crippled so that he might become Israel. Perhaps it is those who keep their hearts under lock and key so that they might avoid heartbreak who have lost their way and wandered from the path of deification. Perhaps if God is determined to transform you he will inevitably break your heart and turn you into a cripple of some sort. Perhaps he already has. Perhaps nothing could be worse than for this not to happen.

Just a thought.