Your appointment in the twilight zone
Have you thought recently about how you spend your time? If you are between 16 and 65 which is where most readers of this piece will be, there are likely to be two activities that dominate your life: the first is work; government statistics tell us that 67% of 16 – 65 year olds spend more waking hours on work than any other activity.
You don’t need the government to tell you, however, that you spend even more time than you do on work on another activity – namely sleep. If you live to be 70 years of age, then around 23.5 years of your life will be spent asleep. It is amazing that with all your activity, work and achievement, you fall unconscious for one third of your life.
Notice I said ‘unconscious’ but not ‘inactive’; we know that all kinds of activities take place during sleep; your body does a lot of housekeeping.
I am going to suggest, however, that you consider an aspect of these hours which can and does have dramatic and powerful impacts on your life and work. So relevant is it to your overall performance as a person, that I am proposing to look at a few biblical examples over the next editions of WORKTALKweekly. We are still on ‘in between’ times and I invite you to consider ‘in between sleep and awake’.
I am referring to that marvellous, fantastic and mysterious experience that we humans have of dreams (and visions); although they take place mainly at night and during times of sleep, you can experience them as if you are awake; hence my description of ‘in between sleep and awake’.
Sometimes these experiences are so hard to pin down that you literally don’t feel sure whether you were awake or asleep at the time.
To introduce our series, I would like to turn your attention to one such puzzling incident. It concerns the quintessential schemer we know as Jacob. His experience happened when he was alone, at night, and is described as a man wrestling with him till daybreak. Now it is not clear whether Jacob experienced this as a dream, while he was sleeping, or a physical presence while he was awake; what is clear is that Jacob experienced a night of wrestling, struggle and turmoil. Straight away, you are with him, in that you will have had such nights.
His opponent is described as a man – a man who would not give his name. As part of the narrative, the opponent is identified as a man or men and God.
There are some paradoxical moments in the account, as you would expect. It appears that the man could not overpower Jacob. Indeed, Jacob (who would have to have been the source of the story) reports that the verdict was that he had overcome. Clearly, no human could overcome or overpower God; Jacob himself wonders that he came out of this alive. Somehow, then, God met Jacob in the night-time struggle, which resulted in three changes in Him: his name was changed from ‘heel or leg puller’ to ‘perseverer of God’, he was blessed and, thirdly; he was caused to walk with a limp.
This all night struggle had a profound impact on Jacob’s life. It refocused his complex energy away from manipulation, deception and scheming to seeking out God’s mind and ways; it also left him slightly disabled.
This is a good place to start looking at the ‘in between sleep and awake’ phenomenon. For I would suggest to you that this story is left for you to show you that you are very likely to have this kind of appointment in your twilight zone. It may, like Jacob’s, be a one night experience; it may be a recurring experience, but either way it seems there is spiritual rite of passage, which is common to many.
Perhaps you have been working in a manipulative, scheming way – not necessarily fully aware that you have been doing so. Perhaps you have been holding onto human heels and pulling legs, strings, or fast ones for too long.
It is likely that a wrestling match will turn up and a profound change will be the result. Jacob clearly wrestled with a mystical man, his own manhood in general and behind it all, God himself.
My suggestion to you is that God meets us in such mystical experiences quite deliberately and his aim is to bless, not destroy. As the biblical narratives unfold, you will see that this, far from being rare, is a remarkably frequent experience. You do tend to limp a bit afterwards and that makes us more human – which is the point.
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?””Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
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