This weekend, Mike and I are taking a handful of Plymouth students to the Fall Youth Retreat at La Foret. Our theme for the weekend will be Folklore and Wisdom, where we will explore big truths within all different kinds of stories. I was tasked with developing a discussion workshop, specifically around our faith stories. The Bible contains several different kinds of stories, and I wonder how some of these may be compared to “folklore.” I wonder how some of these stories have changed over time and been misinterpreted, misunderstood, or misused. I want to look at one story in particular, Jacob Wrestles God (from Genesis 32, CEB):
22 Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” 27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.” 29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.” But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.
In Godly Play, we are encouraged to approach the stories of our faith with wondering questions. This story stirs up several wondering questions for me. I wonder if these events literally happened exactly as written here? I wonder if that matters? I wonder why it mattered that Jacob’s thigh was injured and that he limps now? I wonder what this story means? I wonder what this story means for you? What wondering questions do you have?
For the last few weeks, we have been talking about what we mean when we say, “We are Plymouth.” I believe Plymouth is a place where people can wrestle with God. I believe Plymouth is a place where transformation can happen. We spent some time in youth group this weekend talking about our Plymouth community. The students agreed that our Plymouth community is deeply valuable, but they also expressed that its value is in the intangible. We may not always be able to articulate who we are or why that matters. But within loving community – like Plymouth, or La Foret – we have a great place to be working that out.
Brooklyn McBride is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.