Roald Watterson is an editor and content developer.
The air was heavy with impending rain as I made my way on foot through Chiba, Japan. As I glanced at the low gray clouds, I chided myself for not bringing an umbrella. It seemed that in a minute or two the heavens would burst open, but two minutes came and went.
I remember memorizing Hebrews 11 as a child, which detailed quite a few gruesome ways to die: “They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”1
I’ve been watching the TV series The X Factor, in which singers across the United States participate in a talent show contest where the winner will be awarded a multimillion-dollar recording contract. For those unfamiliar with the show, in each episode the judges choose who will move on to the next level in the competition, based on talent, of course! But there’s another trait that they’re also looking for. They want someone reliable.
It’s well known that in fiction, plots along the lines of “Matilda is happy, beautiful, successful, and will live happily-ever-after-forever-and-ever” don’t make the most captivating stories or become bestsellers. Even picture books for children need to involve some kind of tension—an obstacle that the child needs to work through in order to achieve his or her happy ending. Whether it’s a little boy handling his first day of school, or a little girl learning to share her toys, the story isn’t captivating if it starts off perfect.
I had a basic knowledge of who Hagar was through the various illustrated Bibles I had read as a child. But this year, after deciding to read through the Bible cover to cover, I came away from her story with new perspectives on God’s individual love for each of us.
Money was scarce when I was growing up. I never lacked anything vital, but I never had so much that I could casually give something away without feeling the pinch.
Once when I was 17, a homeless person asked me for some money. I had been taught that giving brought good things back to you, so I calculated how much money I needed for my train fare home and gave him the rest—around ¥500, or roughly US$7. It was difficult giving away my last bit of pocket money. While I can’t say that because I gave $7 I got back X dollars in return, I do know that over the years I’ve received enough back to firmly believe in the “law of returns.”
I was in a bad mood recently, and it wasn’t easy to pull out of it. I’m not a hugely emotional person; I don’t usually have trouble motivating myself to get moving, but this time I was having a rough go of it. In the midst of this, a friend of a friend won a Mercedes-Benz through some kind of lottery!
First thought: I was happy. So these things do happen to people within my somewhat extended world! Second thought: Where’s my Mercedes-Benz?
Children—and many adults, including this one—love the story of Aladdin. Adventure, magical artifacts, good versus evil, and the ultimate success story of a beggar boy being transformed into a prince by an awesome genie. There’s something appealing about that easy success. Instead of having to discipline himself and work hard to succeed, Aladdin uses magic.
Eiko was 31 kilos (68 pounds) that Christmas. Her skin stretched tightly across her cheekbones, and even her bulky winter clothes could not hide her extremely thin body. Only thirteen years old, she was suffering from a severe eating disorder that had begun at the age of nine. My parents and we, her siblings, hadn’t been fully aware of her struggles in the earlier stages, but now their impact was glaringly apparent.
It is widely believed that we are born with only three fears: fear of loud noises, fear of falling, and fear of abandonment. These, according to some psychologists, are hardwired into our nature; all others are acquired. Fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of dentists, and the rest are programmed into our psyche through either firsthand experience or information we take in.