Every July, the Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire hosts the Ben & Jerry’s World Toe Wrestling Championships. Contestants sit opposite each other on the “Toedium” and, locking big toes, place their feet on a small wooden frame, the “Toesrack”. At the cry of “Toedown”, they try to wrestle their opponent’s foot to the floor. It’s a straight knockout competition with recent winners embracing the title ‘Toeminator’.
Trials of strength aren’t always physical. They take place between parents and children, between partners, among work colleagues. Sometimes they are the product of creative competitiveness though they can be motivated by envy, by a desire to wield power or by sheer unpleasantness. Whatever the source, they can help us discover more about ourselves and our own identity as we explore the boundaries between ourselves and others.
In the last week of Jesus’ life, the religious leaders of the time engaged him in a trial of strength. They were pushing him to reveal his identity in a way that would give them an excuse to accuse him of blasphemy. Put up or Shut up might have been their slogan. In the way he responded to their envious opposition, Jesus revealed more about himself. But the fullest statement of his identity came not in answering their questions but in bowing to their hostility and giving himself into their hands.
We can learn much about ourselves from such battles of wills, sometimes finding new strength and sometimes accepting appropriate limitations. Sometimes going with any opposition produces greater learning than resisting it. Victory in toe wrestling or in any battle of wills is less important than taking the opportunity to discover more about who we are and how we best relate to others.
Read: You shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have wrestled with God and with humans and have prevailed. (Genesis32.28)
Rejoice: in times when opposition to me, to my hopes or ideas, has proved beneficial.
Reflect: If it feels as though I’m being obstructed in any plans I have, might God be trying to tell me something?
Remember: It’s sometimes appropriate to give in to opposition.
Resolve: to seek God’s wisdom in knowing when to persevere in spite of resistance, and his strength to do it.