My oldest daughter, a lover of reptiles, has yet to meet a snake she dislikes. She finds them fascinating, perhaps because they are so different from human beings. But it’s that very difference that makes many of us afraid of them. By contrast, my youngest wants nothing to do with any kind of reptile, especially snakes. That’s why I was surprised to see her handling Katie’s pet snake the other night. For a few minutes, Luci managed to master her fear, tentatively holding the snake in her hands and then letting it crawl up and down her arms.
I was glad to see her feeling more comfortable around the snake. But my pleasant thoughts were soon interrupted by a little yelp. As I turned my head to see what was going on, I saw the snake flying through the air. It seems Luci had gotten so comfortable with her new friend that she made the mistake of squeezing him inside the crook of her arm. In a panic, the snake, who had never bitten anyone before, must have given her a little nip. Terrified, Luci gave out a yell and sent him flying. Fortunately, the snake survived his short flight, and I was able to retrieve him before he had a chance to slither away in a panic, never to be seen again.
That little interchange between two innocent but fearful creatures made me think about the damage fear can do in our relationships with others, distorting our perceptions and putting us on the defensive simply because people are different from us. Such fears keep us constantly on guard, making it difficult to establish relationships with those who are not like us. Instead of reaching across fences to bring more peace to the world, we shrink back, preferring to confine our relationships to those who look and act like we do.
If we want more peace in our world, we will have to start taking a few risks. Even if we do get “bitten” from time to time, chances are we won’t suffer too much.
Why not decide today to look for ways to forge relationships with people who aren’t just like you? Ask God to show you who to reach out to and how, and then pray that your efforts will produce a little more peace.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Nakusha. She was beautiful and bright, healthy and full of life. But though she looked fine on the outside, she was sad—very sad—on the inside. Nakusha tried everything she could think of to make herself feel better—dancing, joking, smiling, working hard, being helpful, looking beautiful. But nothing helped. She still felt depressed and worthless. And no wonder, because in Hindi, nakusha means “unwanted.”
Incredibly this is a common name for girls all across India. These girls’ families bestow the name, it would seem, in order to express their regret at ever having daughters. A few years ago, 285 girls—all named Nakusha—gathered in central India for a renaming ceremony. Each girl chose a new name. Some picked Vaishalie, which means “prosperous, beautiful, and good.” Others adopted the name of a Bollywood star. One girl called herself Ashmita, which means “rock hard” or “very tough,” perhaps a reflection of what she needed to be in order to survive in a society that devalues women and girls.1
I remember an experience I had in China when I was adopting one of my daughters. An attractive, well-dressed Chinese woman came up to me and asked me point-blank, with a look of complete puzzlement, “You mean you want to adopt a girl?” She couldn’t believe that, given the choice, anyone would prefer a girl to a boy.
How can the world ever be at peace when attitudes like these prevail? As Christians, we know we are all cherished by the Father who loves us. Realizing who we are, let’s stand up for others, linking arms with those who are doing something to elevate the status of women and children throughout the world. Commit today to volunteering your time and money to an organization that is spreading the Good News and improving the lives of the most vulnerable people on earth.
- Associated Press, “285 Indian Girls Shed ‘Unwanted’ Names,” USA Today, last modified October 23, 2011, accessed May 25, 2017, https://www.yahoo.com/news/285-indian-girls-shed-unwanted-names-122551876.html.
Walter Mosley is the author of a series of bestselling mystery novels featuring Easy Rawlins, a hard-boiled private investigator living in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. During the course of a recent interview, the sixty-year-old writer touched on the influence of his father, a black man who had grown up in the racially charged South. One day Mosley’s father sat him down and told him about every person he had ever seen die.
“And it was just amazing,” Mosley remarked. “Little children killing each other . . . black people killing white people, white people killing black people . . . people being hung, people dying because there was no protection on their jobs.”
When asked whether his father’s encounter with violence in the segregated South had made Mosley expect the same kind of violence in his own life, he responded,
“Not at all. One of the things my father did was he made me feel extraordinarily safe. He made me feel that ‘I’ve taken care of it. Nothing’s going to happen to you.’ And I always felt like that. Now things did happen. I got stopped by police and they would pull guns on me and do all kinds of things but all through that I was never really worried because my father said, ‘You’re going to be safe,’ and I believed my father. And on the whole it’s been true.”1
Contrast Mosley’s experience of his father’s protective influence with that of Diane Bartholomew, writing from the York Correctional Institute in Connecticut. Bartholomew’s father raped her when she was a young girl and later tried to run over her and her sister with the family car. After his death she described her feelings as she approached his casket:
“Hello, Dad, and good-bye. Good riddance. The others are sad, sobbing. Why? Have they forgotten all the things you did to us? I stand here feeling nothing, unless you count relief.”
She was so hurt and frightened by her father that she wanted to make certain he was really dead. “Then,” she says, “I’ll know you can’t hurt us anymore, Dad. Then I’ll know I’m safe.”2
Two different fathers. Two different children. Two completely different ideas of what constitutes safety. However your father made you feel, I pray that you will know God as the Father who keeps you safe.
- Walter Mosley, “Mosley’s ‘Last Days’ Restores Memory, but at a Cost,” interview by Terry Gross, Fresh Air, December 6, 2010, transcript and audio, 18:43, NPR, http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131848211/mosley-s-last-days-restores-memory-but-at-a-cost.
- Diane Bartholomew, “Snapshots of My Early Life,” in Wally Lamb, Couldn’t Keep It to Myself (New York: Harper Perennial, 2003), 332.
Since his death, Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, has been hailed as a pioneer, a visionary, a creative genius, an American business magnate, and an amazing human being. He was all of those. Diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2003, Jobs decided to forgo conventional treatment in favor of a course of alternative medicine, a decision he later regretted and which doctors say led to his early death at the age of fifty-six.1
Walter Isaacson, Jobs’s official biographer, tells of a fascinating conversation he had with Jobs toward the end of his life:
“I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God. He said, ‘Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of—maybe it’s ’cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone. . . . And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.’”2
Now we know why it can be so hard to find that on-off switch on certain Apple devices! And we know something else as well. As terrible as a terminal diagnosis can be, it affords a person time to reflect on ultimate questions—like whether there is life after death. As Christians, we believe in the existence of an afterlife. Why? Because Christ, our brother, assures us there is one. Furthermore, he has already done the hardest thing possible—dying for us and then being raised from the dead. Because of him, we can face our own death with hope, believing God will restore us to life.
- Jon Swaine, “Steve Jobs ‘Regretted Trying to Beat Cancer with Alternative Medicine for So Long,’” The Telegraph, October 21, 2011, accessed May 22, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8841347/Steve-Jobs-regretted-trying-to-beat-cancer-with-alternative-medicine-for-so-long.html.
- Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs: Revelations from a Tech Giant,” interview, 60 Minutes, CBS News, October 23, 2011.