Tag Me In Bro!

No, there is no typo.  This entry is not about the now famous tag-line “Don’t Taze Me Bro!”  It’s about wrestling and tag-team partners.  Yes, I know, yet another odd topic for a Catholic blog!  But at least you are reading it…so mission accomplished!

 So how many of you are familiar with the movie Talladega Nights???[1] Ok, so if you are familiar with this movie, I can ask you how many of you think of Jesus as 8 lb. 6 oz. Baby Jesus or, as Will Ferrell says, “Baby God” or “Christmas Jesus”? (Maybe to be more reverent, we should talk about the Infant of Prague, but I digress.)  Do any of you think of Jesus like Cal Naughton Jr. does… wearing a tuxedo shirt because he wants to be formal but also wants to party…or as the lead singer at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert?!?  How about as teenage Jesus, or as bearded Jesus, or as a ninja fighting off evil spirits?? (For those of you who still have zero idea what I am talking about, click on the link[2].  For those of you that went to the most recent Steubenville youth conference, think of the Chris Padgett Arm-Wrestling Jesus).  Well, sometimes I think of Jesus as a WWF wrestler[3]…as my tag team partner who is just waiting to be tagged in…and so begins this entry.  So lets take a closer look at the main wrestling story of the Bible, Genesis 32:22-32[4].

In this story, Jacob tricked his brother Esau into giving up his birthright and received the blessing from his father Isaac by taking advantage of Isaac’s blindness.  Obviously, once Esau found out, he became very angry…probably angry enough to kill Jacob.  As a result, Jacob ran away from home to live with his relatives.  After some time, Jacob eventually decided to return home and face Esau.  However, as he was on his way home, he was suddenly met by an unknown man in the middle of the night and wrestled with him.  Because it was dark, Jacob could not see who he was wrestling with.  In fact, he was probably thoroughly confused.  Maybe Jacob thought the man was a robber.  Maybe Jacob thought that the attacker was one of Esau’s men sent to kill him. The text does not specify the identity of the attacker but, in Hebrew, the word used indicates a “man” in the generic sense…probably to keep the reader guessing as to who exactly was the attacker. Nevertheless, Jacob battles with all his strength.

For the reader, it is hard to tell who is winning the battle. At the beginning, Jacob seems to be stronger, but yet Jacob doesn’t win.  In fact, the attacker injures Jacob’s hip so that he is hobbled.  However, Jacob refuses to give in and says that he will not let go of his attacker unless the attacker blesses him.  But the attacker instead asks Jacob his name, which Jacob gives him.  In a Biblical sense, knowing someone’s name implies having power over that person.  Accordingly, when Jacob tells the attacker his name, he is, in essence, surrendering to the attacker.   After the wrestling match is over, and Jacob survives, it is revealed that Jacob was wrestling with God and Jacob is given a new name (Israel).  The new name is symbolic of Jacob’s new life after surrendering entirely to God.

In this story, Jacob faced an attacker, in the middle of the night, and didn’t give up.  He had no idea why he was being attacked or even who was attacking him.  Maybe he doubted that God was even there to help him or that God even existed.  But through all of that, Jacob battled on!

Ok Ok, enough old stuff.  At this point, you are probably wondering just how I am going to tie this story back into my mental image of Jesus as a WWF wrestler.  Well, at some point, we need to surrender to God and not wrestle with him.  For me, that means I need to tag Jesus in as my wrestling partner (not my adversary), put all my trust in Him, and trust that He will win the battle for me.  Yes, even if I doubt that God exists…I reach out and make the tag anyways.

Think about it…during the wrestling match, God saw that Jacob was clinging to Him with his entire strength and refused to let go.  But why would God then injure Jacob? God injured Jacob so that Jacob would be humble and realize that he needed to be totally dependent on God.  Only once Jacob was injured and humbled, was he able to trust in God totally, tag-in God, and let God fight his battles for him.  Maybe, in our lives, when things are at the darkest, God (Jesus,) is just waiting for us to say “uncle” – You Win! – I give it all to you!

There are times in life when we are faced with situations that seem dark.  Sometimes, we may think that we are in total spiritual darkness, that God isn’t listening or that God doesn’t even exist.  In these cases, we always try to win the battle by our own efforts.  Sometimes we throw ourselves into different activities to distract ourselves.  Other times we just go through the motions without feeling any sort of consolation.  Still other times, we simply give up and quit.  But that is not what Jesus wants!  The battle is His, not ours. Our battle should be based on clinging to God and His Eternal Word (Jesus) no matter what happens in life and no matter how dark the night gets. Clinging to God with perseverance is a part of loving Him.

How many times do we wrestle with difficult problems?  Maybe it is just a mild temptation and maybe its something a lot more difficult!  Maybe its sin, maybe its doubt, maybe its addiction, maybe its pornography, maybe its lust, maybe its anger, maybe its pride.  In all of those circumstances, who are we really wrestling with?  It’s the Devil.

But apart from that, how many times have we wrestled with God instead of tagging him in and letting him help us? How often do we obsess with the bad things in life instead of appreciating how God is always in control?  How many times do we even question God’s very existence if we feel desolation? If we think of all of the difficulties as opponents, maybe they are small wrestlers or maybe they are Andre the Giant.  It simply doesn’t matter.  We need to tag-in the King of the Universe and let him squash the problems and squash the Devil!

I personally have the nasty habit of trying to take all of my problems on myself, without any help from God, and end up getting squashed pretty quickly and amazingly consistently.  As a matter of fact, I’m 0 for a million.  I’ve never won on my own.  Not even once!  I’m batting .000.  For all of you baseball fans, I win the Golden Sombrero each and every day when I don’t ask Jesus for help.  Whenever my prayer lacks, even for a day, I get crushed.

Sometimes I turn my energy on my wrestling partner, wrestle with God, and get angry when I think He isn’t helping me.  Sometimes I wonder if He is deaf or just doesn’t want to pay attention. Yeah, that makes real smart sense.  I’m going to wrestle with the King of the Universe and expect to win?  Seriously?  Ugh.

But this is not what Jesus wants!  It is not why He came to Earth! Jesus wants to help us in our wrestling match.  He isn’t our adversary!  He wants to jump in and squash the Devil.  In fact, He has already won! But, because of our free-will, He will not jump over the ropes unless we ask Him.  We can’t access that victory until we say Uncle! I Surrender!

Let me say it differently, sometimes having faith is purely an act of the will.  Sometimes you have to say “I believe” no matter what it feels or doesn’t feel like, no matter what it looks or doesn’t look like, and no matter who tries to convince you otherwise.

So, in view of all of that, yes, sometimes I think of Jesus as my tag-team wrestling partner.  And, for lack of a better, more appropriate phrase, I can hear him yelling “Tag Me In Bro!”  I see Him just waiting at the ropes, straining and stretching his hand out so close to mine that I could easily tag his hand when I am pinned on the mat! But, most of the time, I never think to tag him in.  Maybe it’s because of pride.  Maybe it’s because of ignorance.  Maybe it’s because of a lot of things.  All I know is that I need to remember to tag Him in and let Him fight for me.  Sometimes, in the deepest part of the darkness, if I doubt that He is even listening or, for that matter, even there, I simply need to reach out for the tag anyways.

As explained in the Catechism[5], Jacob’s wrestling match sets the foundation for our spiritual tradition that prayer is a battle of faith and a triumph of perseverance. Jacob’s story talks about a long dark night of seeking God and wrestling with all sorts of struggles but still persevering.  It talks about never letting go and simply deciding, as an act of the will, to hang on, even if it injures or kills you.  This story helps us understand that prayer requires trust and sometimes hand-to-hand combat that is symbolic not of a God who is an enemy or an adversary, but as our merciful King to whom we must surrender.

So let me leave you with this…Sometimes our “I believe” has to be an utter surrender to God.  Sometimes the prayer simply has to be “God, My Name is XXX, I Believe In You, I Surrender To You, I’m Tagging You In And I’m Not Going To Let Go Until You Bless Me Just Like You Did Jacob!!”…and then you just hang on for the ride no matter what happens and until death if need be!

Try it out.  I promise you that in the darkness there is, in fact, an all powerful hand waiting to be tagged.  So just make a conscious act of the will, reach out and smack that hand with everything you’ve got!  Whether it be through crying, or yelling, or swearing, or foaming at the mouth because you are so angry you can’t even speak…smack that hand!  Even if you are so tired and despondent…smack that hand!  Even if your hands are filthy dirty because of all of the junk and sin you are swimming in, smack that hand!  Even if you don’t think it’s there, swing at the hand anyways.  Don’t give up!  Use the last ounce of energy to tag Him in. You’re wrestling partner is the King of the Universe and is going to crush your opponents like a bug!

God Bless

[1] I’m not citing this movie to be crass or to be at all disrespectful, but simply to make a point.  So take this all with a grain of salt.

[3] I know it seems like I am focusing on wrestling a lot lately, from the flying elbows of the old ladies in the “Bring Me My Weapon” entry to todays WWF theme.  Well, I am.  But wrestling is not a foreign concept to the scriptures. See, e.g. Genesis 30:8;  Genesis 32:24-25; Hosea 12:4; 2 Samuel 23:21; 1 Chronicles 11:23; Ephesians 6:12


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