I am now officially a member of the older set. The proof: I recently attended a movie premiere exclusively for AARP members. And, yes, Marcia and I had an early dinner first.
When we got to the theater, our group lined up alongside another preview-screening audience. This one was made up of mostly 20-somethings invited to the new Avengers movie. “The hip people next to the hip-replacement people,” I murmured to Marcia.
I don’t mean to get too Grumpy Old Man about all this. I know some younger people whom I admire, even envy, for their quiet self-assurance and style. This calm confidence in who they are seems to come from somewhere deep inside, rather than outwardly from what they wear.
I wish I’d had half the same poise, the same gentle grace, at their age. Heck, even now.
But then I see some young ‘uns and my heart goes out to them, because they are just like I was for too long—and still retain some. Not quite able to carry it all off, somehow. In place of stride there is either swagger or stumble.
Wearing someone else’s clothes never really works. Just ask Jacob. He swapped his indoor casuals for the outdoor gear of his brother, Esau. Pretending to be someone he isn’t appears to get Jacob what he wants, but when you read the rest of the story in Genesis, it seems that he is never quite secure in his identity.
Having appropriated the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau, Jacob comes across as uncertain it is now truly his. Like the fifth-stringer who gets sent onto the field, all the time waiting for the coach to realize his mistake and bring him back to the bench.
Some Christians are like that. We think we have to be someone else, someone other than who we really are, for God to bless us. Then we begin to worry that He’s going to discover our deception (as if He was blindsided by Jacob’s sheepskin-on-the-arms thing).
Maybe what we need, like Jacob, is a Genesis 32 “do-over.” Returning to Canaan after 20 years away, he is unsure of the reception he’ll get from Esau. Reaching the Jabbok River, he sends his wives and families on ahead of him, along with all his possessions.
“So Jacob was left alone,” verse 24 says. He is there with nothing else to define him, no other title or role to duck behind—not as a husband, not as a father, not as a master, not as a deceptive brother, not as a successful farmer. Just as himself. And, wrestling with God, he secures a blessing. He finally knows who he really is—even getting a new name that better fits him.
Having put aside all other identities, Jacob gets to see “God face to face.” It is an encounter that changes him: during the nightlong struggle, God puts out Jacob’s hip, leaving him with a limp. Now everyone can see that he is different—not because of what he is wearing, but because of how he walks.
I so want to be part of that hip crowd.