Until the latter part of the 20th century, most doctors believed there was nothing better for one’s health than cleanliness. But new research reveals that our bodies require some level of messiness, especially to build up our immune systems and fight off disease. Researchers believe that allergies are so common nowadays because our lives are too clean, and our immune systems can’t decipher between dangerous germs and harmless ones.
Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.
During the closing seconds of an American football game, the referee had to make a very difficult, game-deciding call. His decision resulted in one team winning and the other facing the bitter sting of a loss. Furious fans from the losing team ridiculed and threatened the ref for days and weeks. In time he experienced panic attacks and even considered suicide. Doctors diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder.
In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.
We anticipated an amusing evening at church. Whether it would be the antics of our own kids or someone else’s, we were confident the kid-driven event would elicit laughter. Sure enough, laughter rang out, but my husband and I sat stunned and tried to hide our dismay. What had appeared to others as a funny comment had actually been a joke at my husband’s expense. Though we had felt tension with the couple in charge of the program, the episode exposed the depth of the chasm.
Recently a highly respected journalist from the Middle East reflected on the many complicating issues and unjust events that have led to distrust among political factions in the region. The difficulty that truly captivated me was how belligerent rhetoric and vicious violence will escalate whenever issues become explicitly religious. “We can deal with cultural and even ethnic divides, but whenever God comes into the picture, there’s no way to control the conflict,” the journalist stated. As a result, leaders exert much energy attempting to keep references to God out of political disputes.
Something about my 4-year-old daughter’s outfit looked odd. Taking a closer look, I noticed that her pockets were packed with stones. While our family had been roaming an outdoor area, she had been picking up pebbles and saving them. I had to empty her pockets; it was making it hard for her to walk!
In May 2014, 8-year-old Abby Porter was in a car being driven by her mother when her mom suffered a medical emergency. Abby immediately grabbed the wheel and was able to control the vehicle until a police officer helped stop the car safely. After the event, the officer related how he told Abby to put the vehicle in PARK, to which she responded, “I don’t know how!”
I remember when someone on our church ministry team responded with disbelief upon discovering that my husband and I have disagreements. But I didn’t back away from sharing that we—like any family—had to work through conflict to relate better. Being spiritually mature doesn’t mean we’re exempt from challenges or failure. And it also means being honest, not trying to hide behind a squeaky clean façade.
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
One day during class, Adrionna Harris noticed something disturbing—one of her young classmates cutting himself with a small razor. As she perceived it to be a grave situation, she did what she thought was the right thing to do—stepped in, took the razor from him, and threw it away. But instead of receiving praise, her compassionate act earned her a 10-day suspension. Asked if she would do it again, Adrionna replied: “Even if I got in trouble, it didn’t matter because I was helping him . . . I would do it again even if I got suspended.”
The memory is vivid. My wife Merryn and I sat in emotional pain, talking. “If this really is our last chance to have a baby and it doesn’t happen,” Merryn said, “I need something else.” We’d spent the past decade trying everything to start a family—IVF treatment, healing prayer, adoption—all without success. We now awaited the result of one final IVF round. “If it doesn’t happen,” she said, her face downcast, “I have to have something else to look forward to.”