And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking."
But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me."
And he said to him, "What is your name?"
And he said, "Jacob."
Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."
Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name."
But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peni'el, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." The sun rose upon him as he passed Penu'el, limping because of his thigh (Genesis 32:24-31, RSV).
This story, of Jacob wrestling with the angel, has come up in a few different contexts in my life lately. You know how these things happen. You encounter a historical tidbit you never knew before, or a new vocabulary word, and suddenly everywhere you turn that "new" bit of knowledge is again revealed.
It's fascinating to read this strange biblical text. I guess I've never really thought about it much before. To be honest, it's always struck me as a rather stereotypically male story. A guy meets an angel, and instead of worshipping it, or pleading with it, or fearing it, any of the things you might expect, instead he feels the need to beat it up.
But lately I've been thinking, maybe that's the way some things work.
In December, author Jane McLoughlin was teasing me on Twitter for constantly publicly bad-mouthing Project Demo. She joked, "It's the only language these ungrateful toe-rags understand..."
But her joking got me thinking. Sure, I complain all the time on Twitter, here on my blog. But have I ever complained so much about anything I've written as I've complained about Project Demo? I don't think so. I've certainly never worked so many hours on a novel, or doubted something of mine so much. What if abusing Project Demo on Twitter is the only way I find the strength to face it another day?
It took another friend mentioning Jacob, and a sermon over the holidays, and soon I found myself mulling over this wrestling an angel story. What if it isn't so much a stereotypical guy thing, as a case of desperation? Sometimes we feel all alone, and injured, but we want something so bad (in Jacob's case a blessing), that we're willing to stay up all night fighting for it.
Not that I'm directly comparing Project Demo to an angel!, but I wonder if sometimes the creative process (or life itself), is like Jacob's fight. Sometimes things come easily to us, sometimes life almost makes sense. But other times every step can feel like a challenge. I have no sense if Project Demo will ever appeal to large numbers of readers, if it will ever be published, find fans, etc. But something inside it has a hold on me, and I can't let it go until the story is complete.
So the revision continues!
How are your works in progress coming? Do you ever feel in writing (or in life!) that you're wrestling a metaphorical angel? Perhaps the image is a good one for the beginning of a new year.