“I used to have heroes, but God kept cutting their legs off.”
I forget who said this. I heard it once on the radio.
Maybe like me you came of age in a dusty Baptist sanctuary watching slides of people in India charming snakes.
I remember that the missionary from India disliked “that anyone would hear the gospel twice when so many in India have never heard it once.” He was the first to tell me that I shared the missionary pulse.
And he was right. No end seemed better to me than to go down in a bush plane for the sake of the gospel. I wanted, briefly, to teach the children of Romania to read. (“The children of Romania don’t know how to play,” said another missionary. “Communism has eradicated imagination from the nation.”) I admired missionaries. I thought they knew how to spend their lives most wisely.
Later we learned that the missionary from India had two wives: one in the country and one in the city. For this reason he had lost the support of other churches, though he led us to believe that support-withdrawers were persecuting him for his orthodox views on theological issues.
As you might imagine, the blow of this news mystified our church body. The man who brought his guitar and helped us remember our vested interest in the advance of King Jesus hid a second wife in the India countryside? Like Jayne Eyre’sRochester? We could hardly conceive a more peculiar betrayal. Should we laugh? Cry? Try to reason with him? Examine the parts of the Bible relative to the one-man-one-wife model? We did them all.
Oddest of all, perhaps, was remembering the prayers we had prayed. When we pray for missionaries we seem to grow bigger inside. We believe in their stories and welcome them to open use of our slide projectors. “Tell us the story,” we say.
The legless hero metaphor stuck hard to me. At last we relinquished the missionary, still praying he would repent. The blow didn’t crush us because we worshiped not the missionary, whose metaphorical “hero legs” could get cut off, but God. The ordeal reminded us that we should expect God, not man, never to fail.
Why do we forget this? How can it be that sometimes disappointment in man must remind us that God stands as our fixed point of reference for goodness, health, rightness, and joy? He will not share His throne. He doesn’t even let us worship Bible characters. As Sally Lloyd-Jones says in the Jesus Storybook Bible, God loves the people who need Him very much. The familial dysfunction of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and Rachel and Leah remind us over and over that God, not man, stands as the point of the big story.
So may the Story Writer keep his servants from presumptuous sins, but love us when we fall. May we worship not each other but Him, the God whose legs can never be cut off. We need Him very much.