Friday, September 24, 2010

What do real leaders look like?

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open." - Corrie ten Boom (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983)

It can be very confusing and even scary. There's just so much poor and false leadership among those who call themselves "Christian" today. It's very easy - as Jesus warned it would be - to end up on the wide path to destruction, instead of the narrow path that actually leads to God and life.

So where do we find people who've done it right?

Well, one of the leaders I've learned most from is a woman who never would have called herself a leader, and who never had any intention of becoming a well-known anything (though I'm sure she would have loved being known in her local community as a really good watch repairer).

I never met Corrie ten Boom. In fact, when she died in 1983 I was a young lesbian still in deep hurt and hatred of all things Christian, having been chased away from God by those who were claiming most loudly to be His best (and often only) representatives.

I wonder if I'd been able to meet Corrie before she went to the Lord, would I have been spared another 15-20 years of struggling to find out that God had nothing to do with the rejection I'd been dealt, and that being a follower of Jesus actually did mean something good (and not something vile and hate-filed, as I'd been taught)?

Truly, God only knows. And although those were horribly painful years, I don't regret them. I learned as Corrie learned: the pain in our lives can come from outside evil, or from within ourselves, but neither of them is God's real way. What is God's real way?

That's the other thing that Corrie ten Boom can show us so very well.

Corrie grew up Christian in the Netherlands, and was in her middle life when the Nazi's took over her country. She and her family soon were hiding and helping Jews escape, stealing and making food ration cards to feed their charges, all while continuing to work their family business. All until they were found out and taken by the Nazis, first to prison (where her elderly father died), and then she and her sister to the horrible Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. There, her sister died and Corrie was spared death only on a technical error (so the world would say!).

And it was in the midst of all this pain that Corrie learned about the real Jesus, and about allowing Him into her heart and strength to do the things she could not do under her own power.

What things? Well, things like:
  • Risking all she had -- even her beloved family and ability to make a living that fed her family - to stand up against what was wrong. 
  • Surviving horrible evil that beat, starved, reviled, and killed her family (a sister right before her eyes), when so few were able to. And,
  • After the war and being released, actually shaking the hand and forgiving one of the camp guards who'd done all this to her, releasing her worldly right to hate and perhaps even hurt this man (she later wrote of that experience, "For a long moment we grasped each others' hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.")
See, one of the things I appreciate most about Corrie ten Boom is that she is a real Christian hero. She's also a real Christian leader. She was confronted by evil and pain the likes of which most of us reading this post will never know, and she did things wrong. She hated. She failed her Lord over and over again.She was just as human as all the rest of us.

But then she allowed Jesus to heal her. She allowed Jesus to teach her. She allowed Jesus to correct her day after day after day, again and again and again until there was so much of Jesus in Corrie ten Boom that few could walk away from even a conversation with her without knowing the depths of Jesus' love for them. She brought untold numbers of people to Jesus - both in the camp and later throughout the world - not because she helped them learn the prayer that would get them a new car, or pay off their bills, or even to have a happy family or strong nation. Not because she got them hooked on her own church. Not because she zoomed them up each Sunday so they'd have enough spiritual zip to make it to the next Sunday "hit".

No, Corrie ten Boom was truly the hands, eyes, feet, mouth, and heart of Jesus in this world because she gave people Jesus - just Jesus.

If you haven't checked Corrie ten Boom out, I invite you to do so. If you think you've learned all you can from her life, I invite you to take a new look. Jesus never stops teaching through the example of those who are real leaders in His real church.

Here are some things to check out:

Her life:

Her books (note that a lot of these can be found at the library or in used book stores - I list links only so you can see more about them):
 Other stuff: