Monday, March 21, 2011

Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown...

(photo from
No, I haven't reverted back to my pre-"new traditional" self and started speaking in King James english. I haven't fallen and hit my head, or suffered a temporary fit of amnesia, thereby allowing me to forget everything I have discovered in the last few years about the creation I am. I'm still very much in favor of ditching those traditions and ways of thinking that keep the church forever locked in the grasp of 1952, however...every now and then something from the church's history hits me hard...

...and there it is: "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown."

It has been hailed as one of Charles Wesley's greatest hymns (Charles was probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hymnist in the history of the church). That being said, I find it a little humorous, and not just a little sad, that I was 40 years old when I heard it for the first time. Wait, I still haven't actually "heard" it, but I did accidentally run across it while I was looking through the hymnal one day. (Oh give me a break, I am a worship planner after all)

It's a long song...a really long song...and would definitely be one of those "First, second, and last" songs that we sing in church. But the story it tells is absolutely beautiful...

Come, O thou traveler unknown
whom still I hold but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee.
With thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue
or touch the hollow of my thigh;
though every sinew be unstrung
out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
wrestling I will not let thee go,
Till I thy name, thy nature, know.

I think I mentioned this hymn in a blog a week or so ago, I don't remember, but it has hit me again this week. The story it refers to is the story of Jacob wrestling on the banks of the Jabbok River, all night long, with an unknown opponent. In Genesis 32, the author says that the man Jacob wrestled with could not overpower him, so he touched his hip and threw it out. Still...the wrestling match went on until daybreak. Jacob yelled, "I will not let you go until you bless me!"

The man asked his name (as if he didn't already know) and said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." Evidently Jacob wasn't content with just being blessed, he wanted to know who this man was. "Tell me your name." We, on the other hand...well...

I have learned over the last few months that blessings are born out of struggles, a lot more often than I had thought. I think that's pretty cool.

Yesterday, I posted a sermon clip from Matt Chandler titled, "Following God may end badly," and in that clip Matt reminds us that sometimes serving leads to a blessing, and sometimes it just leads to more struggles. Even though I know that following God may end badly, I have decided that I'm not letting go. If I come away limping...well, limping more...I'm cool with that. Why? Because even in the struggles, with God or with humans, I'm blessed.


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