Fear is irrational. Spielberg’s Jaws came out the year I finished 6th grade. The knowledge that we had no sharks in our back yard pool did nothing to relax the grip tightening around my spine as soon as the water enveloped my body. Nope. No night swims that summer.

Not long ago, a similarly irrational fear—that there might be a large predator in the woods where I wanted to take what became the attached picture—was replaced by a terror much more rational the moment I opened the door to the unmistakably noisome pungency of a skunk. Now I had something real to occupy my concerns.

There is so much to judge even when we are focused on God’s purposes: other people’s actions and thoughts, other nations’ posturing and values; others in general.

And then there is this pungency from Jesus: Do not judge others unless you judge yourself first. Do not be a hypocrite; first take the log out of your own eye, then with clarity you can take the tiny speck out of your brother’s.

When we step into God’s purpose, there are real bears out there. But scripture, other believers, and the Holy Spirit all testify plainly to the very real and threatening personal stink which ought to occupy our conscience first.

To a week pursuing God’s will while humbly seeking and addressing his correction—not of others, but of us.