Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost


August 2, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, as I revisit the story of Jacob's night of wrestling with God, I am reminded of the relationship between our struggles and our blessings.



Science & Nature

Why Struggle Is Essential for the Brain — and Our Lives

Jo Boaler


Stanford Professor Jo Boaler talks about the importance of struggle to brain development and to life.

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What struggle in your life has led to your greatest blessing?


And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. –Genesis 32:29b-31

Blessing is a word we have diminished. Perhaps we have not meant to, but we have. We use it as a salutation; we use it to speak of the good parts of our lives without sight lines to the struggles that made these things possible. I’m not disregarding the place of gratitude about the gifts in our lives. Not at all. Rather, as I return to Jacob’s long night with Yahweh, I am realizing that those things I can most clearly name as blessing in my life have come with struggle. It is in struggle that intimacy with the Divine can finally happen. Because I am raw, opened in a way I was not before I began wrestling. And, I treasure most the times when I have the audacity to keep at it. Like Jacob, I come just past the crossing of Jabbok, every now and then, and dare to say to the Almighty that I will not let go until I receive a blessing.

To make such an absurd demand of the Divine is our birthright. We were born to wrestle with God. God desires nothing less. God wants to struggle with us. To strike a hip and throw it out of joint. To matter enough to us that we will not let go easily.

In today’s science and nature lesson, Stanford Professor Jo Boaler notes, “Neuroscientists have found that mistakes are helpful for brain growth and connectivity and if we are not struggling, we are not learning."To struggle is to be alive. To struggle is to show what matters to you.

You are invited, now and always, to struggle.

To persevere through the night, wrestling with all you’ve got, uncertain where things are headed. Uncertain at times even with whom or what you are struggling.

Do you have the audacity to refuse to let go?

To be bold in the presence of the Almighty is your birthright.

Holy is the limp you have been given. Holy is the face you have seen in the night of your struggle. Holy is the blessing born of your audacity.