The apostle Paul had some amazing encounters with the Lord, encounters that are beyond our imagination. He met Jesus directly on the road to Damascus and heard his voice. He also says that he was "caught up to the third heaven" (2 Cor. 12:2). I can't even imagine the glories this man knew this side of his departure from life on this side of eternity. This is why Paul writes of his having learned to live with weakness (2 Corinthians) after he pled with God three times to remove his (physical) trial.
But Paul also knew what it was to suffer and to be opposed by others, especially through the attacks of Christians. I reflected on this with a long-time friend over lunch last week as we shared about Brother Yun's time with me and my blogs about him.
My friend shared a story with me that I did not previously know. It was about the great missionary to the Middle East, Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952). Zwemer, like me, was a Reformed Church minister. He was born in western Michigan of Dutch immigrant parents and his life was shaped by the very same theology that has shaped mine. But Zwemer was a visionary and a man of action. He organized a mission to Muslims and profoundly impacted other missionaries and organizations. Some believe he was the greatest missionary to the Muslim world ever. He left an immensely valuable legacy. He was that rare combination of both scholar and visionary.
Zwemer lost two children while serving on the mission field. He buried them side-by-side. My friend told me that on their tombstone is this saying: "Do Not Trust a Leader Who Walks Without a Limp."
Again and again I have discovered this very lesson. God calls us to suffer and thus to learn to trust him. None of us does this without having profound brokenness worked into our experience day-in and day-out. I have learned to look for the "broken" leaders, not for the successful ones.
I believe Samuel Zwemer understood this well and by putting it on the grave markers of his two children demonstrated it profoundly. He understood what we all need to know about those we listen to and follow? How much like Jesus are these men or women we respect? Do they know his power in real weakness? Do they have a limp?
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Read the story again. Where did Jesus (I believe in preincarnate manifestation) touch Jacob? Here’s an explanation from a Bible Dictionary:
In the most intimate place. A place that only a father or mother changing a diaper or a lover was allowed to touch. And a place that would only be touched once more after death in preparation for burial.
It so impacted him that he walked with a limp from then on.
Many people have an encounter with Jesus, come to faith, but they have not yet been touched in the most intimate places of their lives. They have not developed an intimacy that destroys pretense and distance. They walk in self reliance because they have not yet encountered the Living God in true intimacy.
Yet, the story you tell, your own story, my story, the story of men and women of God like Brother Yun who walk with the limp from the intimate touch causes us to want to encounter Jesus once more like that. In tears. Even in pain. Sometimes it’s even Physical. Chronic. Unhealed.
I pray that we all will find the touch of God in our lives and in the most intimate way. He wants to know us there as he is known.
“I have learned to look for the “broken” leaders, not for the successful ones.”
I love that statement! Unfortunately, the “successful” ones are easier to find. Broken leaders are rarely out fin the open.