Jacob, the Patriarch of the tribes of Israel in the Hebrew scriptures, had all the makings of a great mafia boss. He knew how to scheme and manipulate and control people in ways that served him and his family above all else. Then he had twelve sons, all of whom had their brutal, barbaric side (I mean, the way in which they killed the men of Shechem was definitely mafia-like).

But Jacob’s life has two halves (as do most of our lives).

Part one of Jacob’s scriptural biography shows us a guy who turns the knobs of his own destiny to maximize his comfort and get his way. And then, late one night, he “wrestles with God.” And so begins the second part of his life, where he walks with a limp.

Jacob had been somewhat religious before the wrestling match. He named one place “Beth-el,” which means, “house of God.” And later, after he wins… or loses… or kind of win-loses his match with God, he returns to Beth-el and renames it as EL-beth-el, or “the GOD of the house of God.”

In part one, Jacob walked with a strut. He had power and wealth (which, back then, meant a lot of goats). He even knew how to posture religiously, go through the motions, and talk a decent “God” talk.

In part two, Jacob had been wounded by a humbling encounter with God. He lost his strut. He wound up less sure of himself, but more sure of God’s trustworthiness.

In part one, Jacob is all about being blessed. In part two of his life, he’s all about blessing his children and grandchildren and leaving a legacy.

In our culture, we tend to elevate leaders who strut. Leaders who are cool, charismatic, and loud.

But the greatest leaders you’ll ever follow are those who have been humbled by their journeys through suffering. They’ve lost the strut. They walk with a limp, a wound, a scar, and a permanent inability to pretend to be perfect any longer.

If you’re a leader, look for your own limp. Where is your wound? What is the pain out of which you’re being formed?

And if you’re looking around for someone to lead you, fix your eyes on leaders with a limp who have something to share out of their journey through brokenness and healing.

Photo by The Lensemen on Unsplash.