Divine Cage Matches And The Limp Of Love

One of the many benefits of “daddyhood” are the daily ruthless cage matches that turn my living room floor into a carnage filled war of bloody dropkicks and stomach turning armbars.

Ok, not really.

But I can see the mean and hungry gaze of my opponents every evening as I descend down to the living room rug. A little blond three year old jumps off his chair in the kitchen and screeches across the tile like a Scottish warrior. A twelve month old carrot top takes a more subversive attack mode, crawling swiftly across the carpet floor while huffing and puffing in an unintelligibly excited tone.

The three-year old cannonballs onto my stomach, the one year old goes for the face rake, they both giggle hysterically as their big clumsy opponent grunts in fabricated (usually) pain.

This is their favorite time of day.

It’s their father’s too. Amongst the dropkicks and baby armbars he’s usually able to sneak a few hugs and kisses in.

I’m sure in their little imaginative psyche’s they are partaking in a no holds barred rumble of epic proportions. I mean, they are relentless (and could probably go on all night).

I always think about Jacob and the jujitsu smackdown he had with God. Whether it was just an angel, the preincarnate Christ, or some other divine manifestation, Jacob was convinced he had a face to face encounter with The Almighty when it was over (v. 30) The story always had a certain level of humor to me (Genesis 32:24-32).

God humbles Himself in such a way to appear physically before the perplexed man, and not only that, He allows for a wrestling match to ensue for the whole night.

This is the same God who could fling a universe into existence with the flick of a wrist, or drown a massive army with the drops of his bucket. But here we find Him in a grappling stalemate with a sinful man who deeply fears his own human brother, Esau.

Behold the humility of God!

I don’t presume to know God’s emotions, but since He is Father, I wonder if a sheepish grin of delight ever occurred to Him as He wrestled with His child, Jacob.

And just to  remind the kid who was boss, like any good father has to do from time to time, the God-man dislocates Jacob’s hip with the simple brush of the finger. A little tangible battle wound to remind him the cost of wrestling with the Almighty (v. 25).

Despite the pain, Jacob is relentless. Specifically, relentless with his prayer request to God:

“I will NOT let you go until you bless me!” (importunate child!)

God blesses the striving man with a new name and a wiped clean past:” Israel.” For Jacob you have “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (v. 28) Amazingly, God delights in being bugged by His children (Matthew 7:7)! Keep pestering Him beloved, He has commanded we treat this as a joyful full time occupation (Jeremiah 51:12).

I love the heart of a Father who stoops to His children’s level to communicate and bless them.

I love the relentless grip of the child who knows only the gracious hand of the Father is able to supply all his needs.

I love being a dad. I pray my little boys can see through the flawed picture of their own  earthly father’s limited love, and see the perfect picture of their eternal Father’s everlasting love.

Such a love that cost the death of His own begotten, where the Father’s wrath on the Son wasn’t imaginary, but terrifyingly real and utterly complete (Isaiah 53). Thank God that through Christ we may wrestle with the Holy One in prayer and not be destroyed.

Claiming the precious name of Jesus in incessant prayer to God is serious business.

We may walk away from the encounter with a new limp.

We may walk away from it with a new name.

But let’s always walk away from it with a new-found delight in the Father who delights to wrestle with His kids.

Bryan Daniels


Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

33 thoughts on “Divine Cage Matches And The Limp Of Love”

  1. I must say that I really enjoy’d reading this post. I guess it’s because i go through the same thing avery once in a while. My little 3&5 year old grand children beat up on me every so often… Blessings.. Bro pat

  2. I love your statement: Claiming the precious name of Jesus in incessant prayer to God is serious business.

    It is serious business – it is LIFE – a life of prayer – and getting to the heart of the Father who loves us.


  3. I love this! I’ve pondered that encounter between God and Jacob before and often walked away wondering why God will submit Himself to Jacob’s attitude. You’re perspective has helped clear up that confusion…God’s love truly is a miracle!


  4. Great stuff, Bryan. The story of Jacob’s bout with the Almighty has challenged and comforted me over the past few decades of wrestling with God. Praise Him for what Brennan Manning calls, “the victorious limp!”

  5. Bryan, this is brilliant. What a great perspective on God’s Fatherly interaction with us. And the insight on the whole Jacob thing – that’s the best I’ve heard. I link posts to facebook often, but this one’s a sure bet.

    Thanks for blessing all of us with your thoughts today.

  6. What a great post! I love this story in God’s word, and I find this application so stirring. I especially loved the statement, “Behold the humility of God.”

  7. I was so glad to read this post. My husband always played with our kids and the effects are long-lasting. All three of our young adults feel free to call home, ask questions, seek advice. They feel loved. What you are doing is paving the way for a wonderful life for you and your children.

  8. Oh, this brought back fond memories. You remind me so much of my husband (also a coach/teacher). When our boys were young, he’d tell them they had to have “coupons” to wrestle him at night. My boys called wrestling “roll around.” So, they would run through the grocery store snagging coupons from those electronic dispensers and shout “roll around coupons!” (I’d always try to stop them out of respect for the store; but they’d snoop them out somehow and grab them when I wasn’t looking!). Now, my 14yo is taller than his father. Finally old enough to work out and play ball for his dad, they have a deep relationship and my son respects his father greatly. Keep up the string-tying, memory making days with your boys.

  9. My children are grown, but I do appreciate the parallel you draw between having a human father and a heavenly father. Especially the phrase, “God delights in being bugged by His children.” Beautiful image!

  10. This brought a tear to my eye. Our sons are in their twenties but I remember watching the wrestling matches between them and my husband. Jacob was tenacious, as well as imputant. I believe God did smile when Jacob wrestled him. I find that some Christians just don’t try or give up too easily. I have at times in my life. I want to be that tenacious child of God that has His ear when I pray and digs for His will for my life. I am toning those “spiritual muscles” that have been weak for so long. Loved the post. Sandy

  11. We have those wrestling matches at our house, too, with four children ranging in age from almost nine months to almost five years. I have recorded a ton of video of it, because I know these days will be all too brief. Until today, though, I had never really considered how their pleas for a rollaround with Daddy are so reflective of our relationship with the Lord. What a lovely perspective you’ve given us tonight. Thank you, and peace be with you.

  12. What hit me…

    “This is the same God who could fling a universe into existence with the flick of a wrist, or drown a massive army with the drops of his bucket. But here we find Him in a grappling stalemate with a sinful man who deeply fears his own human brother, Esau.”

    Pray I get over my ungodly fear of my mother, just like Jacob with Esau! The fear of man is a snare…

      1. Fearless warrior? I would love to be that someday – in Christ. Right now, I’m afraid of my mother. How ridiculous does that sound? I’ve feared her since I was a teenager. I had to work up courage to ask her a simple request in the car on my way to school. FYI: the ancient history of my last name (Kent) signifies purity and victory. Look it up on Wikipedia. God bless you for posting this!

  13. Pingback: Chief of the least

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