Today, I had to say goodbye to an old and trusted friend. We met years ago, when I was a neophyte in the ministry. My traveling days were just beginning, and all I had was a new Bible and an old suitcase made of cardboard. It was just a cloth-covered box with a handle, nothing fancy, but it worked.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular that day when I walked into the store, but there she stood, so regal in all her glory. My heart started pounding; I could not turn my head away. It was love at first sight. All I could think of was Solomon 4:7: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”
This was my first time to see a suitcase with wheels. Why hadn’t someone thought of this earlier? Up until this time, I had walked through the airports leaning to one side, trying to counterbalance the weight of a heavy suitcase. But a suitcase with wheels? All you had to do was pull it behind you. I looked at the nameplate and learned the suitcase was made by “Jaguar.”
That settled it. An elegant piece of luggage combined with wheels that could run as fast a jaguar through the airport? This beauty had to come home with me. We walked up to the front of the counter and stood in front of the clerk. I said, “I do!”, paid the fee, and Jaguar and I walked out of the store, one happy couple.
On our first flight together, I checked Jaguar in at the counter and watched as she went off to the plane’s underbelly. When I arrived at our designation, I ran to the carrousel, waiting to be reunited with her. But as she rolled out on the belt, I could tell something was wrong. She had been injured during the flight, and one of her front wheels was broken off. As I stood her upright, she went limp on one side. No longer was she perfect, and she would spend the rest of her life looking different from the other suitcases.
From that day forward, I never called her Jaguar again. I now called her “Eileen” (phonetically “I Lean”).
But something happened that I didn’t expect. In Eileen’s brokenness, she became more valuable to me. When I had to pick up my suitcase at the end of the jetway, I would see 25 beautiful, regal suitcases, all standing straight and tall. Passenger fondled the various luggage tags, trying to find theirs among all the other clones.
I would look out over the sea of straight-handled suitcases, looking for the one that stuck out at an odd angle: Eileen! Most of the suitcase handles were straight up in the air as though a policeman had yelled, “Hands up!” But not Eileen. She always had her arms lifted toward me as if to say, “Come and get me.” In one second, I scooped up Eileen and was off to do Jesus ministry before the other passengers had even decided which suitcase was theirs. It was in her brokenness that she blessed me the most.
Eileen and I have spent decades traveling the world. I have had many who have offered to fix Eileen or buy me a new suitcase. I wouldn’t even entertain the thought because in doing so, I would lose a blessing.
You see, Eileen and I are similar. We both have been broken by life, but I have discovered when our brokenness is given over into the Master’s hands, it becomes a beautiful thing.
My wife came to me the other day and told me it was time to pass Eileen on. It wasn’t the first time she has suggested this. Eileen’s remaining wheels aren’t moving too well. Her handle gets stuck, and I find myself trying to either force it back down or yank it up. The zippers are worn and tired, and she and I don’t go out as often as we used to.
l guess my wife is right. I need to pass Eileen on to someone else. I pray her new owners will her true beauty.
Most of the time when I see a painting of Jesus, He looks beautiful, perfect in every way. But like Eileen, His real beauty comes in His brokenness: how He allowed Himself to be beaten, whipped, speared and spat upon to take the sins of the world upon Himself. Through the Savior’s willingness to be broken, my brokenness becomes beautiful too.
“‘He himself bore our sins’” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’” (1 Pet. 2:4).