Have you ever seen Zorb Soccer being played? It’s a crazy game where the participants are actually encased in huge bubble suits -- the game is often referred to as Bubble Soccer. You can’t even call them suits because they’re just these massive, clear, plastic, blown-up balls with a pocket in the center just the right size for a human to crawl into, leaving their lower body exposed and their legs able to move.
I'll give you a minute to watch the clip below.
The players in Zorb Soccer follow pretty much the same rules and have the same task as in regular soccer: advance down the field and kick a ball into the opposing team’s goal. I don’t know how much fun it can be as a participant. Despite the cushioned exterior, I just imagine aching bones and jiggled brain cells by the time the final whistle blows, but one of my kids have played and loved the experience.
Once while on a mental rabbit trail, I pictured a scenario where two opposing players were running at one another, and instead of bouncing off each other, the bubble encasings dissolved and one player was absorbed into the bubble of the other.
Now, consider this account from Genesis 33:1-4:
And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Do you know this story of the brothers who battled? One of many in the Bible, sadly, where brothers aligned themselves against each other over property or rights or insults or misunderstandings. But the ending is not what we expect. The barriers of resentment, hatred and suspicion that had been in place for so many years were gone. Just like the crazy encasings in the bubbles of the scenario I imagined, they melted away, and the brothers were within each other’s embrace, weeping, suddenly unencumbered by worry or fear, suddenly safe.
How did this happen?
Jacob had scammed his father, stolen Esau’s birthright and fled from the land of his birth to escape his brother’s murderous wrath. He found a wife -- two, actually, because the one he loved was withheld in a bait-n-switch perpetrated by his own father-in-law -- grew a family and multiplied his wealth. But he was in a strange land. Never completely at peace among the peoples to whom he had fled under such dubious circumstances. The trouble between himself and his wives' family worsened, and God called him to return to his homeland, back to where his rocky journey had begun.
Jacob anticipated his encounter with his brother would result in warfare. He readied his men for battle and moved his wives and children to safety. These preparations were important, but there was only one way Jacob could hope to protect his family, his men, and his flocks. He wrestled with God over his fears that his past iniquities would boomerang back around, that God would seek retribution through his brother. Through a nightlong struggle, God crippled Jacob's power by cutting at his strength, diminishing Jacob's perception of himself as being in control of his life. Knowing his life was in God's hands, Jacob submitted. In the end, it was his unwavering belief in the trustworthiness of his Redeemer that, regardless the results of the reunion, God had called for this moment to happen and God would be the determiner of its outcome.
Matthew Henry comments on this passage: “Jacob, having by prayer committed his case to God, went on his way. Come what will, nothing can come amiss to him whose heart is fixed, trusting in God. Jacob bowed to Esau. A humble, submissive behaviour goes far towards turning away wrath. Esau embraced Jacob. God has the hearts of all men in his hands, and can turn them when and how he pleases. It is not in vain to trust in God, and to call upon him in the day of trouble. And when a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. Esau receives Jacob as a brother, and much tenderness passes between them.”
And now, you know what you need to do. Who is that person you have offended or sinned against, whose anger has been kindled against you for many years? As Henry says, “A humble, submissive behaviour goes far toward turning away wrath.” Who is that person who has hurt you, whom you have viewed with distrust? Is your heart in need of the turning work of God, away from anger and toward forgiveness? Go, embrace. Absorb the other in the forgiveness God has given to you and make your presence one of peace, reconciliation and safety.
(An important caveat: if you read further in the passage you will see that, although Esau invites Jacob to travel and shelter with him, Jacob declines. It is good that they have reconciled, but Esau is not a follower of the God of Jacob and their father, Isaac. It is better that they part on friendly terms, but not that they dwell together in close dealings. We have a responsibility to live peaceably with all men, but not to partake in the foolishness or dangerous sins of non-believing friends or family. Again, as Henry says, “It is not desirable to be too intimate with superior ungodly relations, who will expect us to join in their vanities, or at least to wink at them, though they blame, and perhaps mock at, our religion. Such will either be a snare to us, or offended with us. We shall venture the loss of all things, rather than endanger our souls, if we know their value; rather than renounce Christ, if we truly love him.”)
** Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a weekly event hosted at the website of Kate Motaung wherein participants are given a single word prompt every Thursday evening, which remains active for one week. How to play: write for 5 minutes on the thoughts, memories, impressions, reflections, aspirations, hopes, beliefs, convictions, or whatever, that that prompt word brings to mind. Set a timer, write without worry about spelling or grammar or typos, and stop when the timer goes off (no cheating). The rules are here. It's free, it's non-committal, and it's easy to participate, so come to the #FMFparty with me! This week, the word was EMBRACE. (By the way, I usually start a piece according to the rules, and then it develops into a regular blog post.)
Laura England Miller