If you’re one of those parents that doesn’t wrestle with your kids for philosophical reasons, you don’t know what you’re missing. You may be right, but you don’t know what you’re missing. And you may want to skip the rest of this post…
Now before you go and call Family Services, it never ends with a sleeper hold or anybody jumping off a turnbuckle (slightly ashamed that I know that…)
It usually ends with massively one-sided bouts of tickling, gasps for air and lots of laughter.
It starts with Andrew climbing up on the bed and me standing on the floor at the foot of the bed. He’s about four inches taller than me, then, and he’s ready. It starts with some intensity, at least for a 7-yr old. He’s watched Karate Kid a couple times so he’s now an expert and he prepares himself, hands up and eyes steady. He’ll run at me and we’re off.
I win. Every time. But it doesn’t stop him.
One day, I decided to “let him win.” And he quit. He climbed down from the bed and walked out, head down. Confused, I watched him walk away. I followed him to his room and he just sat on the edge of his bed, arms crossed, staring at the floor.
“Bubba, what happened? Did I hurt you?”
“Hey…talk to me. What’s wrong?”
Evil death stare. “It’s just…you didn’t… you…” Are those tears? Oh, dear.
“DAD! You’re not supposed to let me win. I won’t get strong.”
I sat there, entirely frozen. I had no words, no thoughts even. I stared at my own knees. He, still staring at the floor and with arms still crossed, scooted over towards me a few inches. Then again. Finally, on the third scoot, he leaned into me and I put my arm around him. He snuggled in and I wiped a tear off his cheek.
We sat for a few minutes, not saying anything. After a while, I leaned into him and pulled back, sort of bumping him. A moment passed and he did the same thing back. I did it again, so did he.
“I just want to be strong like you, Dad. If you let me win, my muscles just stay the same size and I don’t get stronger.”
And it sounds familiar.
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
A man wrestles with God and he won’t let go. He leans into it. He faces it and refuses to give ground. He wrestles until it hurts. And God lets him.
God doesn’t let Him win. God lets him wrestle. He invites it.
And He blesses it.
I want to be strong like you, Dad. Don’t let me win.
Israel means “to struggle.” To be the children of God is to lean in and wrestle, even if it hurts. Even if it changes the way you walk. That’s what struggle does, doesn’t it? It changes the way we walk. It leaves a mark. It serves as a reminder. And it’s worth an altar.
I don’t let Andrew win anymore. We wrestle around. I always end up on top in the end. He always ends up out of breath or laughing uncontrollably.
I may win the wrestling matches, but he taught me a lesson that morning. A lesson that changed the way I walk.