Genesis tells the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel:
One night, in the dark, Jacob was pinned to the ground by an assailant. Struggle as he might, he couldn’t escape, his attacker was too strong. All night the two rolled around the ground wrestling with each other, and there was nothing Jacob could do to free himself.
Gradually, as morning broke, the light illuminated the dark character Jacob had been struggling with all night. To his surprise it turned out to be a beautiful bright angel. The angel, on seeing the dawn, sought to depart and tried to extricate itself from Jacob.
But Jacob clung on. He wouldn’t let go.
“Let me go”, cried the angel, “The light has come”.
“You have to bless me first before you leave!”, Jacob pleaded.
The angel struggled some more but Jacob just pulled him closer. And so the angel blessed Jacob who then let him on his way.
This story highlights an experience which is deeply human. The tussle between Jacob and the angel is an apt metaphor for a lot of the things that happen to us in life. We all have the experience of getting clobbered by something in the dark, blind-sided by some unpleasant event. When this happens our immediate reaction is to struggle to get free of its grip. We feel threatened and our fight-or-flight kicks in.
We want to get rid of unpleasant experiences as quickly as possible. But when we take this attitude we close ourselves off to the potential good they can bestow on us.
When Jacob was in the dark tussling with the angel, it appeared as a curse. But when the light was shone on the angel, which allowed him to see more clearly, he realised he was wrestling with a divinity and his burden became a blessing. When Jacob transformed his mindset from one of fear and conflict to love and acceptance the situation changed. He was then able to reap the rich rewards it had to offer.
The same is true with turbulent things in our lives. When we stop resisting, and shine the light of awareness on the darkness, approaching it with an open, curious, and friendly attitude, what previously appeared scary and demonic can become lovely and angelic.
This reminds me of Rilke’s dragons and princesses:
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
Love those things you hate. Love those things you fear. This is the key to accessing the great magic of the mind – our great alchemical ability to transform base metal into gold, suffering into joy and freedom.