After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is dawn.”

But Jacob panted, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

“What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.” ~~Gen 32:24-31 NLT


My friend Mark gave me a missiological tour of Los Angeles. Out of the blue, driving through Watts, he said, “Whom in the Scriptures do you most clearly identify with?”

After thinking a little while, I replied, “Jacob because he was a manipulative and deceitful scoundrel who tried to make it on his own. God loved him enough to cripple him…”

I was the second of two sons. My brother was three years older than me. Dad traveled. Mom stayed at home with us, and she hated it. Before having children, she excelled in her career. She was in demand as a speaker. Living a fairy tale; she traveled the world with the man she adored, seeing and doing amazing things. When my older brother and I came along, she was stuck at home with us, without her husband, trying to be competent as a mother and feeling as if she failed at every turn. In part, to help her deal with all the changes, we moved to America where Dad was an unknown commodity. This depressed Mom even more. Our family’s celebrity vanished except for in her mind. She made it real for us. We lived as if we were celebrities. In essence, we became modern day Don Quixotes.

We were a “blessed family.” Dad was God’s man because he was an unwavering evangelist who lived by faith, often scorned, and often forgotten — A prophet who was often without honor in his hometown.

I grew up needing to prove our family’s worth to the world. I knew what the world didn’t –we were chosen. The world simply needed to wake up and recognize it. It became my primary my job to make it true. We — I was guilty of “familial narcissism.”

One of the meetings for sex addicts is a “closed” meeting: a meeting for professionals only. It is closed to “protect” psychologists, pastors, doctors, and lawyers, etc… from running into clients or parishioners in “open meetings”. One night someone said, “Growing up I felt simultaneous as if I was the most gifted and exceptional child in the world and as if nothing I ever accomplished would be good enough.” As I listened, tears welled up in my eyes. His story was my story.

In fifth grade, I ran home with a near perfect report card. Straight “A’s” in academics and on the behavior side I had straight “E’s” (for excellent) except for a lone “S” (for satisfactory) in “self-control”. I breathlessly and proudly presented the card to my parents, and their first words to me were, “Why the S?” I was devastated. I could never be good enough.

There was no shortage of people telling me how good I was. And I knew that I wasn’t good enough. I could accomplish 100 great things in a day and still go to bed obsessing about one I didn’t accomplish. I was just like Jacob. I was destined to accomplish great things. The expectations piled up. I felt them weigh on me and learned to escape those overbearing feelings by escaping into a world of fantasy – even as a kid.

I tried desperately to meet my need for acceptance. I was angry that I couldn’t live up to the “golden boy” label and even more infuriated that no matter how well I performed it wouldn’t be enough. So I merely survived, escaping through fantasies of heroism – of being a savior I knew I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. These fantasies were my dream of whom I wanted – no, needed to be. They provided escape and solace in the present moment; giving me necessary reprieves from intolerable reality. I didn’t realize that they were a like a loan with interest; and though they were saving me in the instant, they were also adding to my pain. My fantasies weren’t real. Life wasn’t that kind or glorious. God didn’t want or need a rival, and I couldn’t carry the weight of the world despite my best efforts.