When it comes to smoking me out and getting to the things I care about most deeply (and of course hide most carefully), God and I are like Morpheus and Neo in the dojo, with God yelling at me, 'Stop trying to hit me and hit me!': I tend to be too polite and to give in too easily or too sulky and to walk away too easily. The story of Jacob tells me that I'm not the only one with this problem. For much of his life Jacob avoided the heavenly Morpheus, considering it more prudent to cheat his way through.

But one night when Jacob is up to his cheating ways again, even using all of his women, children and livestock as a kind of shield of offering to appease his dreaded brother, he finds himself wrestling a stranger in the dark. After some time he realises that his opponent is his Maker, but rather than doing the religious thing and falling face down or singing a song or something, he does something really spiritual: he brazenly asks for a favour and holds on ever more fiercely until the request is granted, even to the point of his opponent asking him to let go. By the end of it, the request is granted and Jacob is hurt (walking with a permanent limp). But he has won the respect of God to the extent that he is given a name change: 'Israel', which means, 'One who wrestles with God.'

Every now and then, follow the example of Jacob and let yourself lie awake in bed at night or go for a walk and wrestle with God about something you care about deeply, until he blesses you. Yes, this might go for five minutes or all night. It might go on for years. It could prove embarrassing and you may get hurt. It will certainly purify you, but your life will never be the same and you might even win God's respect and a name change. The problem is that heaven is kind of bored with pretenders. It actually says that in the scriptures … 'For the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might on behalf those whose heart is blameless towards him' (2Chr16:9).

So yes, there is such a thing as waiting for God in a spiritually conspicuous way (not 'religiously conspicuous' by the way). If you do this, you will be invisible to those around you but seen and listened to by him whose heart is hungry to love the world. Unfortunately the young adults of our society who are so enamoured of the 'maturity' and 'humility' of a vague type of Christian/Buddhist/Pantheism, feel that this sort of thing is childishly primitive and below them.

What blessing should you long for? Maybe start with something obvious and even kind of 'selfish' like Jacob's desire to be safe, but just remember that God will bring his own agenda to the wrestling ring. If you want to go further than that you could start with what I like to call the 'Emmaus Road Blessing' – this is the quality in Jesus that caused the hearts of others to begin a deep slow burn when they spent time with him.

How did Jesus get it? Who knows? But you can be sure he will be very interested if you come looking for it. And now is the best time to start, as they say, 'the best time to plant a tree is twenty five years ago and the next best time is today.'

This particular blessing is an elusive and delicate kind of music that definitely has something to do with you meeting the Messiah and all the other things that go with that: 'building your house on the rock', 'abiding in the vine' and having something done to you in such a way that you 'become a sacrament'. It also involves waiting on God, waiting on others and listening and hearing, but it might also have something to do with you playing cards, shouldering an unwanted burden, learning to box or to master the Cello. Inevitably it causes others to come back for more or even sometimes to follow you but you are the last person who can be or even should be the 'judge of it'. So whatever you do, do not think that because you 'feel on fire' that it means you will be setting others on fire. The
world is full of people who are trying to 'set themselves on fire'. But this isn't about you, it's about the others, as in, causing their hearts to burn. Some of the most weak, crippled, boring and harmless looking people in the world are causing the hearts of far more people to burn with gratitude and grace than we could ever dream of.

Seriously – do you want to look back on another year where you have to admit that not only did you not cause anyone's heart to burn, you didn't even attempt the wrestle? If nothing else, why not pray now for the desire to at least have a wrestle about something?