It was about 6:00 PM when we arrived at our destination. An employee at the resort village showed us one of the available bungalows. The minute we saw it, we knew we were in the right place. It was the place John had pictured in his mind, a place that bordered the Sea of Galilee. John filled out the paperwork and showed his passport. We stopped at the small resort store and purchased a few snacks and a bottle of red wine.
We brought our suitcases and backpacks to the bungalow, opened the bottle of wine, got a few snacks and found two comfortable lawn chairs at the edge of the lake. We watched the sun go down and the lights go on around the lake and in Tiberias and Capernaum—just like a necklace of lights. We did not say much to one another. We just drank in the silence and the beauty of the surroundings. We both felt safe, and knew we were at the exact spot God wanted us to be, where He could speak to us through His still, small voice. That’s the greatest feeling in the world, knowing that you are where God wants you. It’s much more than a feeling; it’s a “knowing.” There is a difference!
I bet there were a few exhausted angels around us who wiped the sweat of their brow. “These humans are really hard of hearing,” they said to one another. “We needed to use some extreme measures to get them to the right location at the right time.” I am using poetic license to describe what I am not able to see or hear.
It’s now time to connect all the dots. It is time to put the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle into place.
The following day was celebrated with a cup of coffee early in the morning at the edge of the lake. A few tourists were swimming in the lake. The whole day was full of “perks.” The breakfast was sumptuous. It was included in the price of our stay – everything the most pampered person might enjoy eating was spread out before us.
The view from the dining room was exquisite. The way the bungalows had been built into the hillside, your eyes only met beautiful foliage and palm trees before they came to rest on a shimmering lake. Our table was right next to a large window. There was no need for words between John and myself.
We marveled, we marveled, we marveled as we ate and drank in the beauty with our eyes. We were being blessed and rewarded for a job well done, or so it seemed to us. We felt the love of our Creator mending our souls and bodies. The wonderful memories are now permanently etched into my soul. Thank you, Stan and Linda, for sending us the tour book. Thank you for being able to hear God and for obeying Him. I can easily and quickly recall the memories and enjoy them over and over again as I am writing these words. Pictures on a movie or television screen evaporate quickly and are gone forever, but not these impressions and memories.
I had another experience that somewhat duplicated the experience with the eighteen-year-old waitress in Afula. The only thing that was different was that the person was a little older, had a few teeth missing, and kissed me on the cheek when I hugged her. I have compassion for anyone who has dental problems and does not have the money, nerve or both to take care of them. I, too, have a few teeth missing.
John and I swam and lounged in a large, uniquely engineered pool. Unique engineering catches my attention because of some of my secular employment. Water poured out of a number of places with gusto, massaging your body if you stood close to those aggressive waterspouts. Everything was designed to keep the water sparkling clean. I stayed in the pool a little too long and paid for it with a shiny red face. My bald head scolded me for several days for being so inconsiderate.
I also swam and soaked in the lake – a pampering experience, both physically and spiritually. I picked up two small rocks to remind me that Galilee was not just another dream. I selected a few dates that had fallen from the date palms, some of which had lodged in the trunk of the tree. Ants had not discovered any of them. In fact, I did not see any ants anywhere. I ate some dates and brought a few of them home. I wrestled with myself about declaring the dates, but neither the Canadian nor U.S. customs officials seemed to object that I had them in my backpack.
Meanwhile, John found a comfortable lawn chair and a secluded spot to read a book he had brought along. We both like the same author, Paul Tournier, a Swiss medical doctor, now deceased. He was reading a book that I had already read, To Understand Each Other. A year ago, I spent the time and copied each word and put it in the hard drive of my computer. Since then I have been able to share it with a few grateful friends. One of them responded with these words: “Peter, I don’t have to do premarital counseling anymore. I can just hand the book to those who are intending to get married.” Here is one of the provocative chapters from the book:
My Husband Is a Mysterious Island!
For many couples it is almost with pain that they recall the days of courtship. At that time they appeared to understand each other! Why is that? Because they talked to each other, they opened up to one another, they found great pleasure in understanding and in being understood. The frankness of one evoked the openness of the other. The man was discovering the real person of his fiancée. She felt understood by him, and he by her.
Paul Tournier has written nearly twenty books. We have most of them in our library. The first one I read, The Healing of Persons, was a real lifesaver. I hardly need to do any more counseling or offer advice; I just recommend Paul Tournier and the Word of God.
Now they no longer really talk to each other. Oh, they talk about many secondary matters, trivial and external to themselves, but the matters that are really essential, intimate, personal—these they no longer mention. The dialogue has been broken off. There is only a superficial exchange of information.
Some couples no longer talk together at all. I have known some who could go for weeks without saying a word! It engenders a horrible atmosphere in the home. Just think how children must grow up where at the meal table one of the parents never speaks, whereas the other, in an attempt to fill the atrocious vacuum, never ceases babbling on!
Courtship’s beautiful curiosity has been lost. The thirst for discovery and for understanding has been dried up. The husband believes that now he does understand his wife. At the first word from her lips he makes a little sign of exasperation which means, “You’re still telling me the same old story!” In the face of such a reaction how can the other dare to express herself? Yet, the less she expresses herself, the less she will be understood; the less she feels understood, the more she will withdraw into herself. The thrill of discovery has been lost. If you think that you know your wife or your husband, it is because you have given up the real attempt to discover him. The difference between the image you have made of him, and what he really is, will ever grow deeper.
The discovery of the real person is never easy. I remember a woman who had come to speak to me of her very serious worries. At the end of our interview I asked her, “What does your husband think of all that?” “Oh,” she blurted out, “my husband is a mysterious island. I am forever circling around it but never finding a beach where I may land.” I understood her, for it is true. There are men who are like mysterious islands. They protect themselves against any approach. They no longer express themselves, nor do they take a stand on anything. When their wife consults them on something important, they hide themselves behind their paper. They look deeply absorbed. They answer without even looking up, in a tone impersonal, anonymous, and vague, which excludes all argument. Or else they escape by making a joke of it.
Paul has written on just about every subject that troubles the human heart. Paul Tournier writes in French. His books have been translated into most well-known languages. Let me give you a tiny taste of Paul Tournier by quoting a few paragraphs from his first book, The Healing of Persons. (10)
From the chapter, “Medicine and Life”:
There are personal problems in every life. There are secret tragedies in every heart. “’Man does not die,’ a doctor has remarked. ‘He kills himself.’ If we talk so little about the problems which trouble us most, it is usually because we have lost hope of ever finding a solution to them.” Tournier continues,
‘Treat the patient, not the disease.’ Such is the precept our masters teach us, and which we are reminded of every day by medical practice. Take two patients suffering from the same disease: One makes a rapid recovery, while the other is handicapped by some secret worry which has destroyed his will to live.
But to treat the patient and not the disease means penetrating into these personal problems, which our patients often hide from us in order to keep them hidden from themselves. (6-7)
From the chapter, “The Knowledge of Man”:
Man is not just a body and a mind. He is a spiritual being. It is impossible to know him if one disregards his deepest reality. This is indeed the daily experience of the doctor. No physiological or psychological analysis is sufficient to unravel the infinitely complex skein of a human life. He sees how little his patients understand themselves, as long as they do not examine themselves before God; how apt they are to close their eyes to their own faults; how their good will is held back by circumstances, discouragement, and habit; how little effect his advice can have in reforming a person’s life when the patient’s mind is torn by inner conflict.
From the chapter, “Temperaments”:
Creative imagination, calm thought, artistic production, the gentle things of life, things of the heart and the soul have been strangled in this race to achieve and produce more and more. And humanity has no idea what to do with all its material wealth and all the products of its activity. It suffers from sterility amidst its granaries. It has looked for profits and can no longer even sell. For in a civilization in which action and technical progress have become the norm, money is king, and material return the only criterion of value.
And our mental hospitals are filled with people whose natures are artistic, gentle, and intuitive, crushed by the struggle to live, incapable of keeping up with the speed of the men of action, incapable of earning their living, defeated by the wounds inflicted on their sensitivity, stultified by their feelings of inferiority and social uselessness, discouraged and lacking faith in themselves.
From the chapter, “Conflicts”:
It is clear that what I have just said about matrimonial conflicts could also be said about all the other conflicts which divide individuals and groups. There are first the conflicts between parents and children. In a considerable number of clinical observations it is noticeable what a lasting effect such childhood conflicts can have on a person’s life. This is true not only from a psychological point of view. The need to defend their independence against very authoritarian parents, to assert their liberty beneath the weight of convention imposed on them by parents who are too bourgeois, or the need to evade their vigilance if they are too jealous, leads children into the worst kinds of alimentary, moral, and social faults. Others are the victims of the unorthodox ideas of their parents in regard to food and to abstinence. The reader will find in this book several cases in which a parent-child conflict has dominated a person’s whole life. It is almost always the consequence of the parents’ own personal problems. (92 -3)
From the chapter, “Overwork and Idleness”:
There are more intellectual and spiritual gluttons than one might think–that is to say, people who make excessive and undisciplined use even of the best things. I am thinking at the moment of a friend with whom I had conversations over a period of several months. He was a Jew. He was seeking Christ. But our long discussions were getting us nowhere. One day he came back to see me and told me he had found Christ. He had met a Christian who had simply told him that he was an intellectual glutton. Examining his conscience, he had suddenly seen that his inexhaustible religious discussions, however interesting they might be, were nothing but a kind intemperance and they were blocking the road to his conversion. (114)
From the chapter, “Synthesis in Medicine”:
Endocrinology has rendered the greatest service to us. It has revealed the connection that exists between psychic tendencies and the secretions of the ductless glands. But it would be wrong to think of this connection as working in one direction only, that is to say, to look upon the glandular disorder as the organic cause, and disorder in the character as the psychic consequence. It is in this way that many people draw from science the reassuring thought that they cannot help this or that fault of character, since it originates in a defect of the thyroid or ovary.
It is an unscientific assumption of materialist philosophy which supposes that material facts–anatomical and physiological–are the cause, and that moral (psychological and spiritual) facts are the consequences, and not the other way about. (132)
From the chapter, “Suffering”:
To fight against suffering is to be on God’s side.
On the other hand, as I have shown in Part One, suffering is often bound up with our disobedience and our wrong modes of life, so that in order to strive effectively against suffering we must brings souls to Christ, who delivers them from their faults, who in order to heal the paralytic said to him: "Your sins are forgiven” (Matt. 9:2)
Despite his best efforts, however, the doctor does not cure all suffering. Despite most telling spiritual experiences, there subsist in every man’s life sufferings which God does not relieve. So to St. Paul, who thrice asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” God answered: “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Cor. 12:9). And Christ himself, without sin as he was, was not spared suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane he accepted the supreme suffering when he said to his Father: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42).
So the Christian answer to suffering is acceptance. Through acceptance, suffering bears spiritual fruit – and even psychic and physical fruit as well. Resignation is passive. Acceptance is active. Resignation abandons the struggle against suffering. Acceptance strives without backsliding, but also without rebellion. There is no greater testimony to the power of Christ than that which shines from the bed of a sick person who miraculously accepts suffering. There is no attitude more impossible for man–without the miraculous intervention of Christ – than the acceptance of suffering. (142 – 3)
Rebellion against our lot always separates us from God, and thus deprives us of his help, which is the only thing that can accomplish the miracle of making us accept our suffering. (149)
Accepting suffering, bereavement, and disease does not mean taking pleasure in them, steeling oneself against them, or hoping that distractions or the passage of time will make us forget them. It means offering them to God so that he can make them bring forth fruit. One does not arrive at this through reasoning, nor is it to be understood through logic; it is the experience of the grace of God. (155)
From the chapter, “Positive Health”:
The biblical message of acceptance is the only possible answer to the great problem of suffering. From the miracles that are wrought through acceptance, it can be seen that spiritual strength is the greatest strength in the world. It can transform both peoples and individuals. It alone can ensure victory over the negative forces of selfishness, hate, fear, and disorder, which destroy peoples and undermine the health of individuals. It alone gives them the joy, energy, and zeal needed in the daily battle for life and for the defense of health.
There are three suicides a day in Switzerland. Putting men’s lives in order, helping them to win victories over themselves, to control their passions, to refresh their strength through daily contact with God – all this does not only mean reducing the risk of their falling ill, it also means helping them to find the source of “positive health.”
Health is not the mere absence of disease. It is a quality of life, a physical, psychical, and spiritual unfolding, and exaltation of personal dynamism. (185)
From the chapter, “The Laws of Life”:
“Medicine is the art of giving advice on how to live."”(203)
From the chapter, “Confession”:
If I look honestly into my own heart, and into the tragic situation of humanity, which my vocation as a doctor allows me to do day after day; I see that behind all “personal problems” there lies, quite simply, sin. (225)
It is a fact that hypersensitive people I have seen have had a negative attitude toward their sensitiveness, the source of so much suffering for them. They cannot accept it until they see it as a talent which God is commanding them to put to use, so that it may bring a return in the form of tact, kindness, understanding, sympathy, artistic creation, and intuition.
One of my teachers used to say, “Nervous people have to put up with extra suffering in life, but they also get more out of life.” As soon as a hypersensitive person becomes aware of the special vocation in the world of people such as he, he is enabled to accept his nerves. And even if he is not understood by those around him, he feels that he is understood by God. (241 – 2)