Pressing in

I’ve heard the words “pressing in” a lot recently, especially in regards to extended worship and prayer sessions. “Press into God.” “Press deeper into His presence.” On the surface, it seems like a call to focus more deeply on the Lord. And it is, but I have a difficult time ascribing to specific word choices that arise from the colloquial language of the culture I live in, without a Biblical basis or comparison. So, knowing full well that this admonition could be Biblical, I asked God what “pressing in” meant. And thankfully, He answered, right away.

I was worshiping with Chi Alpha when I asked God this question, and nearly immediately He brought to mind the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:

24Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.

As I meditated on this Scripture, I realized that worshiping God – lavishing Him with your attention and wonder and curiosity – is a lot like what Jacob was doing. He was wrestling. But, we don’t wrestle with God like Jacob did, we wrestle with other things, like wandering thoughts, distractions, our emotions, the enemy. Sometimes it is a fight to truly worship God, and it seems like a losing battle. We can’t get the cute guy in front of us out of our heads, (ok, so maybe I can’t get that cute guy out of my head), our knee is in pain and it needs to be shifted ever 2 minutes or so, we can’t stop thinking about that problem set that’s due in 12 hours. And we succumb from turning outwardly toward Our Lord to our own inward dilemmas, justifying ourselves because of the stress and the pain of these distractions. It’s too difficult to move beyond them.

But Jacob doesn’t do that. He wrestled with God all night. That’s a long time. And, God found that He “could not prevail” against Jacob, so He dislocated his hip. Ouch! But Jacob still did not let go. Think about it: you are fighting with the God of the Universe (though you don’t necessarily know that it’s Him at this point) all night, and it’s essentially a draw. So God pulls out all the stops and physically harms you. He pushes you away. I would probably have let go. But, Jacob does not and proclaims, in his pain, that He will not let go until a blessing is obtained.

Cha-CHING! That’s what pressing in means. We seek God, and we don’t let go until He blesses us, in spite of whatever pain we maybe experiencing. Jacob was presumably tired, and definitely in pain, but still did not let go, seeking a blessing. Our worship experience may not be one that we expect, so we tire easily, or our distracted by our own mental, physical and emotional pain. But to press in means that we do not let go of worship until we receive our blessing, whatever that maybe. It could be a new revelation of Christ, it could be a healing, it could be refreshment and peace of heart, it could be the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. But we press in to receive from God. We don’t let go until He blesses us (or we receive the blessing).

And, I find Jacob’s blessing to be quite analogous to the type of blessing we typically receive when we worship God. The Lord blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel; God changed his identity when He changed his name. And, when we hold on until He blesses us, our names, our identities changed too. Following Christ is a journey in which we are continually changing into one who is more reflective of Him.  It’s interesting that Jacob realizes that, in the end, He saw God’s face. And, in worship (reflection/meditation on Him), we search for God’s face and when we find it, our identities are changed to look more like His identity: full of love and compassion for the Earth and its inhabitants, distaste for sin, and giving us the strength to love and serve Him in our actions.

One last point: Jacob was also physically changed because of this encounter. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. A student at Stanford, in an attitude of worship, was physically healed. This guy was physically changed in a matter of minutes. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, received in worship, physically changes the way we speak. Worship is not simply a mind shift, as I mentioned above, it is also a physical shift. We may not grow taller or more beautiful to the general public, but our bodies are more willing to do the work of the Lord.

I suspect that God changes us physically for several reasons. Sometimes it’s the only noticeable, provable change. We have to be changed in the physical realm to be empowered for His service. Also, we are not Gnostics. We live, physically. Our bodies are as much a part of us as our minds and our souls. God created them, and, although they are ultimately defunct because of our sin nature (it is appointed for all to die), He still wants to change them, just as He changes our hearts and minds. 1 Timothy 4 tells us that bodily discipline is good, and gives value to it. It just shouldn’t take over our faith. Yoga is not the way to enlightenment, even though it can feel like it sometimes.

So, yes, I now know how to press in, not to rest until the blessing is obtained, until my very identity is changed, time and time again.

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