Fearfully and Wonderfully
SEPTEMBER 28, 2019
True friends get their measure, over time, in their effect on you.
As I compare the person I was on our first meeting and the person I am now, I realize that large changes have occurred within me, with Paul Brand responsible for many of them.
Elsewhere, I have written honestly about my early struggles with faith, due in large part to exposure to toxic churches. I can imagine God gently steering me to Dr. Brand at a critical time in my spiritual journey. OK, Philip, you’ve seen some of the worst the church has to offer. Now I’ll show you one of the best.
Paul Brand was both a good and a great man, and I am forever grateful for the time we spent together. My faith grew as I observed with a journalist’s critical eye a person enhanced in every way by his faith. No one has affected me more, and I know no one who better illustrates Jesus’ most-quoted statement in the Gospels, that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” From the perspective of a success-obsessed culture, an orthopedic surgeon devoting his career to some of the poorest and most oppressed people on the planet is an example of “losing his life.” Yet Dr. Brand lived as full and rich a life as anyone I know, one that combined professional achievement with enduring qualities of humility and a grand sense of adventure.
As much as anyone, he helped set my course in outlook, spirit, and ideals. I look at the natural world and environmental issues largely through his eyes. From him I also gained assurance that the Christian life I had heard in theory can actually work out in practice. It is indeed possible to live in modern society, achieve success without forfeiting humility, serve others sacrificially, and yet emerge with joy and contentment. Whenever I doubt that, I think back on my time with Paul Brand.
There was an exchange at work in our writing collaboration, I now see. Wounded by the church, plagued by doubts, I had neither the maturity nor the ability to express much of my own fledgling faith. Yet I could write with utter integrity about Dr. Brand’s faith, and through that process his words and thoughts became mine too. I now view the ten years I spent working with him as an important chrysalis stage. As a journalist, I gave words to his faith. In exchange, he gave faith to my words.
Simone Weil once said, “Imaginary evil [such as that portrayed in books and movies] is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” I saw real goodness in Paul Brand and found it indeed marvelous and intoxicating. I feel privileged, as his coauthor, to have had some role in shining a light on his life.
– Adapted from Fearfully and Wonderfully by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Copyright (c) 2019 by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com