Genesis 32: 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
Walking the sidelines of basketball courts, soccer pitches, baseball dugouts and every other sport in the world, are many “successful” coaches. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and with many different personalities – some personable and others reserved. Some have trophy cases filled with championship rings and trophies. Some remain humble, but others have egos so big that one wonders how their legs can carry them. Yet they have potential recruits lined up dying to become a part of their team.
Many years ago, I heard some simple, yet profound, advice that I have never forgotten as I have made my own personal choices, made choices for my family, and where I have advised others. The advice was “be careful following someone who does not walk with a limp”. This advice alludes to the Bible story of Jacob wrestling God (Genesis 32:24-31). Earlier in Genesis 27 we read of Jacob’s despicable scheme (at the boding of his mother) to con his barely older brother Esau out of his birthright, and then fleeing for his life when Esau threatens to kill him. Jacob flees and tries to start a new life, marrying, having many sons and accumulating much wealth. At God’s prompting he tries to return home, and as he nears he gets word that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob obviously feared for his life and all those around him so he prayed fervently to God to save him from his brother’s wrath. We then read that Jacob wrestled with a man all night long. “When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.” (Gen. 32:25). Jacob would not let go until the man blessed him. “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’” (Gen. 32:28)
Most people look at that story and believe that the blessing Jacob received that day was his new name, Israel, but I believe very strongly that the blessing he received was his limp (vs. 31). In the next chapter, we read that Jacob is graciously greeted by his brother and insists that they travel together, but Jacob says that he must travel slowly for his young children, and his young livestock. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” (Genesis 33:14). I picture this once proud man, not running ahead, but now slowly walking with his young family. Ironically, in this place, he has never been a stronger leader.
When people ask me for advice for where they should attend church, which mentor they should follow, or which coach they or their kids should choose, I say: “choose to follow the one who walks with a limp”. I became a Christian at a very young age and felt I was doing a pretty good job leading a Christian life in my youth, and my early years of marriage and family, but as I look back I was not humble and therefore not a safe leader. I had to have my own God-wrestle encounter where God pointed out my sin and from that day forward I have walked with a limp – a limp that has saved my life, and those God has brought to me. God still deals with my pride, but my limp causes me to hear His voice louder, and more quickly and clearer than before. May you choose to follow those who limp, and above all else, may you become one who walks with a limp.