Everybody has a story to tell.
But we stop telling stories when we start to lose that sort of time—pausing time, reflecting time, wondering, while life rushes us along.
Very few of us are strong enough to stop on their own.
But conversation, is said to ease a certain loneliness—not just with easy banter and camaraderie, but with stories that inspire.
That is how wisdom gets passed along — through stories that are worth remembering.
The last story that my mother told me (that happened a long, long time ago) was about a man called Jacob, who had been attacked in the night as he slept alone by the bank of a river.
He had been traveling, and had stopped to make his meal and settle down to sleep in a place, where he felt safe.
He awakened to find himself gripped by muscular arms, pinned to the ground. It was so dark that he couldn’t see his enemy, yet he could feel his power. He began to struggle to free himself. He could hear his attacker’s breath, feel his garment and smell him.
While Jacob was a very strong man, he could not free himself nor pin his enemy down.
Evenly matched, they rolled on the ground and struggled fiercely for a long time. Eventually, daylight came and Jacob saw that he had been wrestling with an angel.
With the coming of the light, the angel let go of Jacob and tried to leave, but Jacob held him fast. “Let me go,” the angel told Jacob, “the Light has come.”
But Jacob said: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
The angel struggled hard for he wanted badly to escape, but Jacob held him close. And so the angel gave him his blessing.
Jacob’s leg got hurt in the struggle. Before the angel left, he touched Jacob where he was hurt — not to make it better but to tell Jacob to carry it for the rest of his life, to remember what happened.
For me, it was a puzzling story. How could it be that one may confuse an angel as an enemy?
My mother explained to me, saying that this was the sort of thing that happens all the time, but that the most important part of the story is that everything has its blessing.
In the years before she died, my mother would tell me this story several times. One day, the Big C declared itself in the most dramatic way — there was no warning, the darkness and struggle lasted years afterwards, during remissions.
Looking back, I have often wondered: if my mother had not left me with this story as a compass. It’s a puzzling story about the nature of blessings and the nature of enemies. How tempting to just let the enemy and go!
To put the struggle behind you as quickly as possible and to get on with your life might make life easier — but less genuine.
I realized as I grew older, that wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given, as fully and as courageously as possible — not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything.
It is the capacity to live the life we have been given, with greater courage and somehow, even with gratitude.
On Christmas Day, during the services, we will listen to preachings that on this earth, there is hope that leaves us inspired, to try again and again to stretch human possibilities.
We will all get excited and hopeful, and quietly happy.
That is what Christmas is about.
E-mail Mylah at firstname.lastname@example.org