Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.
Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.
Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”
The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”
A woodcut illustration in a German book from 1512 depicts a woman tossing out a baby along with wastewater from a bucket. This is the first known use of the idiom, “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Some say this phrase came from the idea of a family sharing bathwater (from oldest to youngest) until, finally, the last one—the baby—could barely be seen in the dirty water. Whether this story is true or not, we can be grateful for the invention of modern plumbing!
Our pastor wasn’t pleased that his newspaper had been arriving late each morning—for two weeks. So he impatiently stood at his front door, ready to verbally pounce on the newspaper deliveryman and unleash his anger over the tardy papers. Before he did, however, he thought better of it. Instead, he asked, “How’s it going, Tom?” When he did, he found out that Tom’s house had burned to the ground two weeks before. He and his family were homeless. Tom had recently picked up extra work on a local farm to earn more money. Now he had to wake up even earlier than usual. It had been the worst two weeks of his life.
A family headed for missionary training was killed by a truck driver, just months before they were set to leave for Japan. The father had explained their mission in his blog: “The Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth . . . The church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers.” This family answered God’s call but died on their way.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opens with the struggles of Jean Valjean, a man ostracized by society because he was an ex-convict. Myriel, the town’s bishop, gave him shelter one night, but Valjean fled with Myriel’s silverware. When Valjean was caught by the police, however, the bishop said that he had given the silverware to Valjean. He then gave Valjean two silver candlesticks, as if he had meant to give them as well. After the police set Valjean free, Myriel told him that he should use money from selling the candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.
During the school holidays, we drove out to the seaside town of Scarborough on the northeast coast of England. As we walked along the beach, we were fascinated by the sight of all the boats stranded in the harbor. The tide was out and the boats stood upright in the sand. Anyone wanting to navigate one of them would have to wait for the powerful, surging waters of the tide to come in again.
One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”
My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.
Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.
Soon after I came to the US as an international student, I realized that I couldn’t get along in the country without a car. So I relied on the generosity of friends to give me rides. In time I began praying to God, expressing my belief that He would provide when He knew I most needed a vehicle. Amazingly, on my birthday before my senior year of college, a family I knew gave me their used car as a gift!