I recall hearing a story about a pastor in his earliest ministry, when he served a very poor little church in rural Tennessee. The church had been in existence about fifty years but had never had a called pastor. The lives of the people were filled with tales of the sort of hard-scrabble existence that once characterized a good portion of the population of the South, and still does in many places. When the pastor came to that poor little church and community they wanted to celebrate his arrival by decorating their small one-room frame church building. They had no beautiful art to hang above the pulpit behind the preacher, so they had a contest for something to hang on the wall as a centering point for their worship. One of the children won the contest. She had found, in a magazine, a close-up picture of the face of a bulldog. That picture won the contest, and it was put on the wall above the pulpit in the sanctuary, with the following words written underneath it:
Get a good grip on your faith and don’t turn loose!
The people of that poor little country church were saying to God what Jacob said to the angel. “We will not turn you loose until you bless us.”
Sometimes faith has to be like that: tenacious, unyielding. Sometimes faith has to be gripped so as not to let it slip from our grasp, leaving us without faith, without hope, without purpose. Do not turn loose of God until you are blessed, be insistent about it, like the psalmist who cried, “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?... Rise up, come to our help.”[Psalm 44:23]
 From a Southern Folk Advent Service, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, 1994.
- Rob Elder, "Gone Wandering 3: Wrestle Mania," July 24, 2011, Genesis 32:22-31