In the Lectionary

August 2, 18A (Genesis 32:22–31)

Who is Jacob wrestling with?

“And Jacob was left alone.” Our most painful times in life are when we sense that we are all alone. A child feels unsupported when no one shows up to the school’s spring concert. Dinner does not taste the same without the conversation and laughter of loved ones. Even a thrilling roller coaster seems more terrifying with no one to hold onto and scream with.

This particular isolation we’ve been going through is unique. The devastation of our period of sequestered isolation will probably produce long-term effects on our mental health and our sense of social safety. Since COVID-19 set upon us, we have encountered many dimensions of isolation. Most cruelly, people who are sick are dropped off at the hospital door to enter into diagnosis and therapy alone. If they succumb to the disease’s brutal grips, family members and friends are left to grieve in solitude, cut off from the communities that help them to heal.

Jacob has arranged this solitude himself. He is on a journey to reunite with Esau for the first time since he stole his brother’s birthright. Much time has passed. Jacob has continued his manipulative ways and accumulated both wealth and family. Jacob sends them ahead, perhaps in a last-ditch precaution to preserve himself.