November 23, 2009

The Blue-Footed Booby
by Pastor George Van Alstine

In his letters to the churches, the Apostle Paul frequently alluded to the fact that he was not the most striking physical presence, no tall handsome figure who immediately attracted attention. He was aware that people compared him unfavorably to other, more physically gifted preachers, such as Apollos. His speaking skills were not remarkable (2 Corinthians 10:10). He seems to have had an eye disease that made people recoil from close contact (Galatians 4:13-15). Ancient descriptions portrayed him as rather short, bow-legged and balding.

But Paul didn’t allow his lack of natural assets to keep him from fulfilling his calling as the number one evangelist, missionary, and church-builder in the Early Church. He did not accomplish this by upgrading his appearance—wearing a toupee, wearing shades, having his teeth capped, wearing lifts in his shoes. In fact, he came to see his physical liabilities as assets in his ministry:

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness . . . .” (2 Corinthians 11:30)
“To keep me from being too elated [uppity?], a thorn was given to me in the flesh. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it may leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me . . . . Whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

If you have been disqualifying yourself from meaningful Christian service because of things you see as weaknesses, unattractive qualities, past reputation, etc., consider the Apostle Paul.

And consider the blue-footed booby! Now, this is one strange bird. Living by diving for fish along the shores of California, Mexico and Central America, this rather large bird earned his name from being very awkward and ungainly while walking on land—“booby” derives from the Spanish “bobo,” which means foolish, or silly. His coloring is basically nondescript, a mixture of gray and white. This, however, is set off by his yellow eyes and his most striking feature—a pair of oversized, flat, bright-blue feet. When the booby waddles from side to side, these funny feet accentuate its basic clumsiness in walking, so that it’s hard to look at him without laughing. This bird, like the Apostle Paul, like you, is in serious need of a make-over.

But the booby does not try to hide his feet in embarrassment. No, our silly-looking friend actually dances, holding his feet up and waving them, so that any other creature that happens to be looking his way will have to notice the silly appendages. And the casual bystander most likely to take notice is—you guessed it, a female blue-footed booby. She doesn’t consider his dance silly at all. To her, it’s the most interesting show around.

Whatever your “weakness” is, the thing about you which might seem to make you a poor candidate to be a representative of Jesus, why don’t you try Paul’s approach? He said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that he “boasted” about his weaknesses. Kind of like the booby waving his big flat blue feet around. You may be surprised that there is someone nearby who is just waiting for your awkward, blue-footed witness. Someone who would not be attracted to the Lord through a more ideal Christian, but really identifies with your blue-footedness.