I have just returned home from nearly a month of travel. Since the last day of April, I’ve been to Singapore, the Philippines, San Diego, Istanbul, and Iraqi Kurdistan. I’ve taught, I’ve lectured, I’ve counseled, I’ve listened, and I have watched the ways of men and women in a dozen cultures.  I consider it one of the blessings of my life to get to see what I see and to play my minor role in some remote places in the world.

As I reflect upon these recent days, it is not what is foreign but rather what is common to mankind that remains with me most.I continue to be in awe of what one valiant soul in pursuit of a noble cause can mean to the world. Time and again, at the strategic moment, in the critical fight, it is the one man or woman who defines destiny, summons the best in others, and so shifts history by their efforts. The more I know about mankind, the more I understand the vital role of these heroic beings.

I have also seen once again that great souls are always bedeviled by lesser souls who must be overcome. There are always the vain, always the betrayers, always the vacillators and the competitive. Incompetence and failure are easier to stomach when they arise from the well intentioned. Yet the leader seems ever required to contend with those who resentfully contend with him. It is such a common experience for leaders in history that we have to conclude these low-level battles are part of the price of greatness.

I am also more aware than ever of what the team, the armor bearer, the “second fiddle” makes possible. In our western, particularly American, view of history, we emphasize the great man, the lone hero. This theme has its place, but we often forget that the lone figure is prepared, launched, protected, and assisted by equally valiant souls who are called and fashioned for different roles. I understand them—and love them—now more than I ever have.

Finally, my travels in this last month have left me with a dread of the smothering effect of entertainment and the rule of trivialities. There is a place for fun, for play, and for the small things of life. Yet, let them rule us and we become shallow, morally deformed, and usually tourists rather than residents in our own lives.  I fear this in our digital age and come off the road now determined to resist it myself.

Okay, so much for the preaching. These are my reflections, but today I’m grateful for Bev’s arms, the love of my children, and good southern potato salad.

Have a good weekend and, when you can, join me in praying for the desperate situation of the Middle Eastern Kurds.

Stephen