One of my most embarrassing experiences took place a number of years ago as I was about to speak in Brazil. The church was a very significant church in the area, filled with people and life, and I was the first person from the U.S. branch of The Foursquare Church to visit.
To honor the U.S. church for sending missionaries to Brazil, the pastor asked to wash my feet in front of this large congregation. It was a very moving experience, but one that I had not been prepared for. As the pastor and his wife knelt before me, weeping, they began untying my shoes. As they removed my shoes, I remembered there was a large hole in my sock. I began to squirm in my seat to make sure the congregation did not see my holes.
A humbling leadership principle is that, when God raises up leaders, He does not just raise up their gifts and strengths for the world to see, but also their weaknesses, failures and sins, and “the holes in their lives,” as well. One student bluntly paraphrased this idea, stating: “The reason God raises up a leader is to reveal their dark side.” While there are many other reasons that God raises up leaders, whether by design or intent, their weaknesses are displayed for others to see.
I have often wondered why the Bible talks so much about the failures of Abraham using Hagar to fulfill God’s promise, Moses striking the rock to find water when he was told just to speak to it, Samson’s disobedience with Delilah, and David’s sin with Bathsheba. We could also go on to the New Testament to talk about the weaknesses of Paul, Peter and Martha.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he began an apologetic for his leadership by talking about his weaknesses, his “holes.” Paraphrased here, 1 Tim. 1: 13-16 (NIV) says:
- God came for people who have weaknesses. Notice the present tense: “I am the worst” (v. 15).
- It is through our weaknesses that we encounter God’s provision of grace, faith and love (vv. 13-14).
- It is through our weaknesses that others find a path to Christ (v. 16).
In 2 Cor. 12:9, Paul stated, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’” The reason God shows our weakness is as an example to others so that they might believe.
In Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, immersed in sewage and with a load almost too heavy to bear, is carrying his gravely injured future son-in-law, Marius, through the sewers of Paris away from the barricades. Hugo writes: “The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God.”
Why does God do this? Why does He reveal our weaknesses?
It drives us to our knees.
It makes us dependent on Him.
Is shows that ministry is really about God, and not us.
God, give us the courage to lead through our weaknesses that we might grow through them in grace, love and faith, and that others, through our weaknesses, would find You. Amen.