From what I know of Jacob, the lying cheat who is a hero of faith, when he sent the family forward (Gen 32.22), he was probably just trying to hide out. His brother was ahead of them, angry and armed. Jacob was not expecting God to show up. Suddenly he is physically in pain and writhing as the real emptiness of his life dawns on him. All his swindling is coming home to roost. He realizes that he can only survive if he receives a blessing from God. ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me!’ He shouts. It is his only hope. Only that blessing will get him through. And it did get him through.
Some of us ‘just know’ when it is time to head to a cave or river bank and spend time with God. Do you go? Do you know what to do when you get there? Do you know how to hear from God? Are you afraid to be completely open and truthful with God? Like Jacob, are you still trying to make God pleased with you? You have no hope unless you go and do it. Sydney is blessed with many places. My own practice is to take time in prayer every morning. Also, when I wake at night, I usually ask God what he wants with me. You need to build your own practices. Our Lord Jesus did this too. When John the Baptist was murdered, Jesus withdrew to an isolated place (Matt 14.13), the closest thing to desert solitude that Jesus could find in that very populous and green Galilee.
We know this pattern in the gospels – Jesus goes off to pray before dawn, away from people, to the desert for forty days at the start of the ministry and again at the end. If you read up on it, as this chapter, it was almost never a restful time. Twice in this one chapter he is interrupted. It was nevertheless a refuel stop, a habit for finding clear truth, enough courage and to seek God’s face. Jesus needed it, obviously. Is this your habit, modelling your life as you do as a disciple upon Jesus?
And then there is out-there desert time. This coming September two of us are exploring the north west corner of NSW. I go to the desert every year. Sometimes in the stillness I too wrestle with God. This annual practice is merely an unconditional response to the love of God. That may be why the desert, in all of scripture, has been God’s favourite formation place.
What will be your practice?