Monday, October 15, 2012

The Humility of Paul Brand

Pastor Paul
I continue introducing our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding, with a brief passage from Chapter Two, "The Contagious Humility of Paul Brand," by the Reverend Paul Smith.  Pastor Paul is Senior Pastor of Westside Presbyterian Church in Seattle, where Paul and Margaret Brand "co-labored" for many years.  That is where I had the opportunity to get to know the Brands a little -- my parents knew them better -- and love and respect them, like most others at Westside.  Pastor Paul is the author of several books himself, and is a skilful and insightful communicator. 

Dr. Brand probably wasn't
wearing a red tie, that day.
            Our first encounter with Dr. Paul Brand at Westside came on a summer day in 1986.  Vacation Bible School was going on, and there was plenty of distraction.  My secretary looked up from her work to see a slightly rumpled older couple standing politely in front of her.  “We’re Paul and Margaret Brand,” Paul said, “and we wonder if you can help us.”  The names did not register and her first thought was, “Oh my, I suppose this dear couple needs a handout.”  It was our church, however, that was about to receive a “handout,” one which has enriched us immeasurably.

            Paul and Margaret had just retired and were moving into a small cottage on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound about a mile from our church.  It became my privilege to become their pastor – Paul’s for the next 17 years until his death.  In all honesty, however, I must say that I could never quite pull off the mental gymnastics necessary to convince myself of the charade.  What I know is that he became an enormous encouragement, support, mentor, and role model for me.  In her biography, Ten Fingers for God, Dorothy Clarke Wilson describes how Paul felt about his retirement after such a sterling career.  Biological growth may come to an early climax, but, he pointed out, “there is another dimension of life (call it wisdom?) that involves the integration of knowledge and history and experience and can come only later in life.”  If any of us thought Paul’s energy was spent and he might have little left to give, we need not have feared.  He firmly believed that all his life to date had been preparing him for this final phase of activity known as retirement, and “that may well be the most creative and productive of all.”   This was certainly true for us, as he and Margaret contributed immeasurably to our lives.  When my own “retirement” comes, I hope I shall remember this compelling outlook on the whole of life, one of countless lessons learned from Paul . . .

            My most fundamental and abiding observation about Paul Brand was his genuine humility, and that his true greatness lay in that humility.  Saint Augustine said “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues.  Hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”  Paul Brand accomplished many remarkable things in his lifetime.  A good number of these are well-known to readers of the best-selling books he wrote with Philip Yancey.  The story of how Brand discovered that the source of tissue damage for leprosy patients lay in shallow nerve damage which destroyed the protective pain response is well-known, and changed medical treatment and revolutionized the way we view pain.  Medical experts worldwide praise his pioneering hand surgery techniques.  He has been regularly consulted by the World Health Organization.  His lucid and informative writing has inspired Christians and drawn the admiration of scientists and those who simply enjoy a good story.  All these extraordinary accomplishments are magnified in the eyes of those who have met and worked with Dr. Brand by his sincere humility.  But like Saint Augustine, I would go even further and say that it is not so surprising that he has done all this and remained humble.  Rather – and I say this for the benefit of every potential servant of Jesus Christ – I believe his humility is the compelling force that lies behind those accomplishments.
With all due respect, Mrs. Gump:
forget chocolates, this is what life is
really like. 

Order Faith Seeking Understanding from William Carey Library, and get a head start on your Christmas shopping! Or order from us, and I'll sign the book and give you a special deal on any other of my books you'd like to purchase.  I don't normally make this guarantee about my books -- not everyone fits the interest of every reader -- but in this case I can say with a clean conscience to almost everyone: you will not regret obtaining and reading Faith Seeking Understanding.   



Crude said...

He seems like a great guy. He also looks remarkably like Plantinga.

David B Marshall said...

You mean Pastor Paul Smith, I assume? Dr. Brand doesn't much resemble Plantinga, I don't think.

Crude said...

Yes, Pastor Paul. In fact I'm certain I've seen that pic before on apologetics sites and just assumed it was Plantinga.