When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
One day when I was in my 20s, I was struggling with a lot of guilt and shame because I felt like the only thing God ever saw about me was my sin and brokenness. God must’ve told my mother. I came into the dining room where my mom was and she said, “Joshua, look at that angel up there on the shelf,” and then she pointed to a ceramic angel behind me.
I was standing across the counter from the lady at the hole-in-the-wall dry cleaners and I was getting irritated. She had lost my pants and I was sure of it, but I couldn’t find my ticket to prove it. The woman kept insisting that I hadn’t dropped them off with my suit jacket.
I was a poor law student living on $300 a month, and as soon as I saw the police cars down the road, I instinctively put my foot on the break. I couldn’t afford a ticket. It was just a police checkpoint though. I slowed down, stopped beside the officer, and handed him my driver’s license. He furrowed his brow.
I wanted the job. I wanted it badly. And a few weeks after making it to the final round of interviews, I learned that I had just missed the cut. I called my friend Shon to share the bad news. “Is the door totally shut?” he asked.
In my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a disagreement while visiting a family member’s home. We went to the guest room to hash it out privately but we had no idea how badly we were about to embarrass ourselves. While in the guest room, our tempers flared. Unfortunately, I became particularly disrespectful until suddenly, my wife’s face dropped and she said, “Oh my gosh – the baby monitor is right next to you.”
My seven-month-old nephew Canaan was dying and nobody knew it, including his doctor, who had misdiagnosed his digestive issues. The real issue was Hirschsprung’s disease, one of the leading causes of death for kids like Canaan, who has Down Syndrome.
I was not prepared for the phone call I received on May 26, 1994. It came from my mother, who was letting me know she was worried. “Joshua, I’m just calling because I want to remind you to be careful today. There was a teenage girl who was killed in a horrible car accident this morning.”
I got my big chance to be a movie star in eighth grade when casting director David Rubin came to Petal, Mississippi, in search of a kid to star in an upcoming Kevin Costner film called “The War.” With great excitement, I got my brother-in-law to drive me to the local high school for my audition.
A few weeks after my first child was born, I told my dad off. At the heart of my complaints was one central failure: Ever since I was a kid, he had failed to show up.
When I was in college I wrote an op-ed for my local newspaper about the kind of woman I wanted to marry. It embarrasses me to this day. I had three criteria for my future wife: First, she needed to have the body of Nikki Taylor, a “child bearing supermodel.” Second, she had to measure up to the perfection of my mother. And third, she had to be the kind of woman who Mary, the mother of Jesus, would approve of.
Last summer, my dad was in crisis. He was in the hospital after another near miss with death, and based on his track record, it would kill him if he went back to his old apartment and tried to live independently. And while I couldn’t imagine sending him to a nursing facility, we didn’t have a lot of options.
It was 1988 in Petal, Mississippi, and I was in love. My third-grade student teacher, Ms. Smith, had stolen my heart. Ms. Smith was pretty, with her long brown hair and that tiny ponytail on the top of her head that poofed up. But it was more than her looks that made me swoon — Ms. Smith likedme. That wasn’t always the case with my teachers, and for good reason.
I sat in the Fox News Washington studio last fall and waited to be interviewed on “Fox & Friends” about a heartwarming op-ed I had written for Fox News headlined “What happened when my daughter saw me kiss my wife.” My body was exhausted from an intense treatment for a chronic illness; a doctor had just reported that my dad would probably be dead in six months; and I felt like I was failing as a dad because I was spending too much time at work. I was lost in sea of depression and I couldn’t find my way home.
I can’t picture the Holy Spirit. I want to, but I just can’t. Now Jesus is different — I can see Him in my imagination: a Middle Eastern man with black hair, a beard, and smile wrinkles on His face (there are probably scars on His face too).