Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Probortunity: My NPO and My Wife

Written by: on February 14, 2024


“Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thought processes with a view to improving them.”1 Three results of a well-cultivated critical thinker:

  1. She raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  2. She thinks open mindedly within alternative systems of thought
  3. She is scrupulously careful not to misrepresent or distort information in developing an argument or position.2

About a year ago my NPO was vague and heading toward solving issues on every continent. Yeah, I know, that’s funny. For a few months that excited me but as time went by, I began to feel uneasy about it and wondered if it was even accomplishable. My stakeholders raised vital questions, helped me to think open mindedly, so I wouldn’t distort information by actually doing this on my own. Now my NPO is more concise, and I am just focusing on my county instead of the world.

Even though my NPO is more concise and the area I am trying to reach is much smaller, I actually believe I am dealing with a wicked problem. I still need to do some work on it but at this time my NPO is:

Christian men who commit adultery or engage in pornography desperately need help to heal and recover from churches in Chester County.

According to Joseph Bentley and Michael Toth, “wicked problems can never be truly solved.”3 They continue, “So ‘the problem’ is not really the problem-the real problem is our lack of understanding about the problem.”4 David Peter Stroh has written an insightful book about systems thinking. Early in his book, he wrote, “people tend to create more problems by failing to first fully appreciate the problem they are trying to solve.”5

Once I began to appreciate the problem before me, I was not only able to be more concise but also stop creating problems within my NPO. I created problems by focusing on different continents and realizing different continents have different cultures and I was driving myself crazy trying to make my NPO fit into different cultures. I guess that’s called a “super, mega, absolutely foolish wicked problem that will kill you.”


Three months ago, my wife was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease that seriously affects her lungs, kidneys and nervous system. In a nutshell Sjogren’s Syndrome causes fatigue, dry eyes, joint pain, trouble sleeping, muscle pain, and brain fog. Having diabetes and a mental health illness makes life even worse for my precious wife. This is a wicked problem “Wicked problems are intractable, definitely complex, involving lots of uncertainty, with no clear solutions that don’t generate even more problems.”6 Mental illness and autoimmune diseases have been in my wife’s family for generations so we were not surprised and yet I still went through shock because we both knew there may come a time, sooner than later when I will have to take care of my wife as a parent takes care of his child.

I have actually been excited and enjoying taking care of my wife over the past months, whether it’s been giving her a body message, allowing her to sleep all weekend, or doing extra chores around the house. I have also struggled and come to grips with it’s okay to attend church, speak at a conference or event without my wife. I’ve had to come to grips with it’s okay to cry just because I feel like crying. During my Cohort 60 Minute interview, Jennifer Vernam encouraged me to see this situation as a wicked opportunity. As I thought about it, I felt encouraged and said to myself yeah, this is a probortunity.


Sometime, hopefully by 2030, you will read the definition of probortunity in Webster’s dictionary. It will most likely read:

Probortunity – noun

Problems that are so complex they cannot be solved or avoided but attempting to work on them causes internal personal conflict with the goal to help the person, group, or organization to deeply change, grow, and develop emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

First Known Use

2024, inspired by the thought-provoking leader of leaders, Dr. Jennifer Vernam, PhD.


The book Exploring Wicked Problems is a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of complex issues that defy straightforward solutions. “Wicked problems are ill-defined, ambiguous, complicated, interconnected situations packed with potential conflict.”7 A better way to refer to them is to use the word, “messes”8 because trying to solve them is like cycling through a swamp.

To ride a bike through the swamp, it is important to go meta, because it is helpful in moving forward while struggling with a difficult problem. “Going meta means to stop simply thinking or reasoning or talking and move to the next level to examine how we are thinking or reasoning or talking.”9 The four10 strengths that are mentioned to go meta are:

  1. Struggling with problems is a universally shared experience. As I continue with my NPO and loving my wife, it will be important for me to keep in mind that some churches in my county will agree with my NPO but will not encourage their men to be a part of the healing process from my perspective. In regard to my wife, so many engagements will be cancelled at the last minute, or I may have to hurry home just because my wife cannot get out of bed.
  2. Because problems are ubiquitous, those that affect our lives most deeply, are rarely resolved, no matter how hard we try. For so long I knew my NPO would be the answer to help men who need healing but honestly, now I believe many men will not go through healing simply because this is how life is.

So many women on my wife’s side have died of a mental illness and/or autoimmune disease. Even though we are praying for healing, there is a good possibility the Lord will ultimately heal my wife by taking her home. And that makes me sad.

  1. Some problems are beyond us. My NPO is beyond me and will take patience, grace, understanding, dialogue, and discernment.

At times, I have said to myself, “Todd, you have a good grasp on psychoneuroimmunology and yet you cannot help your wife.” Her situation is beyond me and it always will be.

  1. Our experiences of well-being and happiness is greatly determined by our abilities and skills in successfully managing these difficult, messy, and complicated wicked problems. This encourages me to not get discouraged if my NPO doesn’t work according to my timing.

To help me manage this challenging situation with my wife, I have already told about 6 close men to continually check on me and always ask me the tough questions about how I am really doing. I am also sitting in my feelings in order to grow with them in order to empathize with my wife.

In conclusion, my NPO and my lovely wife lead to a great probortunity that will shape me beyond what I could ever ask or imagine. And maybe that is an important purpose of these messy problems…to cause deep inner conflict in order to transform us into the likeness of Christ.

  1. Richard Paul and Linda Elder. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking. 9.
  2. Ibid. 9.
  3. Joseph Bentley and Michael Toth. Exploring Wicked Problems. 2.
  4. Ibid. 3.
  5. David Peter Stroh. Systems Thinking for Social Change. 5.
  6. Joseph Bentley and Michael Toth. Exploring Wicked Problems. 11.
  7. Ibid. XIV.
  8. Ibid. 61.
  9. Ibid. 41.
  10. Ibid. 42.


About the Author

Todd E Henley

Todd is an avid cyclist who loves playing frisbee golf, watching NASCAR, making videos, photography, playing Madden football, and watching sport. He is addicted to reading, eating fruits and vegetables, and drinking H2O. His passion is talking about trauma, epigenetics, chromosomes, and the brain. He has been blessed with a sensationally sweet wife and four fun creative children (one of which resides in heaven). In his free time he teaches at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and is the Founder/Executive Director of Restore Counseling Center.

9 responses to “A Probortunity: My NPO and My Wife”

  1. Jenny Dooley says:

    Todd, Thank you for sharing your NPO and the struggles your dear wife is facing. I am all too familiar with both. I love the term “probortunity!” It gives me hope as it does seem that crises and wicked problems present opportunities that then help us engage with the best of humanity. I love your summation, “And maybe that is an important purpose of these messy problems…to cause deep inner conflict in order to transform us into the likeness of Christ.” This is where I find the joy in all the many trials. James 1:2 The wicked problem may not change but in keeping after them something within me is transformed and hopefully in others as well.

    • Hey Jenny! I really love your statement, “crises and wicked problems present opportunities that then help us engage with the best of humanity.” The word that stands out is “engage” You are so right, because all of humanity has pain and our pain connects us…each and every one of us. Also, thank you for your kind words and inspiration! 😊

  2. mm John Fehlen says:

    Todd, in my humble opinion, this blog post is one of the most important ones this entire year. I think it should be required reading for each cohort member, and I am gonna recommend that our church staff read it.

    Thank you.

    Without being overly melodramatic, I am personally grateful for you, in that you have helped me (via your writings) get off of a stuck place I have been in emotionally as of late.

    These words are what gave me the loving shove: “….lead to a great probortunity that will shape me beyond what I could ever ask or imagine. And maybe that is an important purpose of these messy problems…to cause deep inner conflict in order to transform us into the likeness of Christ.”

    Again, thank you.

    • My dear brother John. I am deeply humbled by your words…totally speechless. Saying, You’re welcome definitely does not seem adequate.
      Finally, I’m so glad my writings in the past actually were able to help you my friend. I think the world of you, young man because you are such a godly well-differentiated leader. Let’s keep changing our sphere of influence as God transforms us.

  3. Travis Vaughn says:

    Excellent post, Todd. And thank you for sharing this window into the “wicked problem” that you and your wife are walking through, brother. I love the “PROBORTUNITY” perspective you’ve described here, and what a timely and fascinating word to process! Given the challenges you outlined with your wife’s condition, how would you frame the problem in a way that captures not only the problem, but the corner/part of the problem that you believe you can best address? Or, maybe a different question — Looking back over the past year, in what way(s) have you been shaped (the most?) by the journey that your NPO and/or your wife’s challenging situation has presented you?

    • Hey Travis, I actually got distracted and didn’t finish my thoughts. A huge way all of this has shaped me is that it has helped me to understand mental health issues up close and personal. Therefore, it has become so much easier to be patient and understanding with others who have mental health challenges.

  4. Hey Travis! Whenever I read your posts or a response to mine or someone else’s post, the ONE word that comes to mind is “Absolutely Brilliant” I love how the Lord has gifted you. Now to answer your question.
    The number one way I have been shaped by the challenging situation with my wife is by applying “Love your wife as Christ has loved the Church.” Loving my wife now means:
    1. Allowing her to stay home from church and just about every other event.
    2. Realizing my wife will not be able to be sexually intimate most of the time and loving her means letting her know that’s okay.
    3. When my hands are tired from messaging her muscles, I need to keep going until the knots are all gone from her back.
    Travis, when we got married, I never thought the above three would be the way I would be showing my wife love. It has shaped my understanding of agape love and marital love and I am still growing in this area. Thanks for the question.

  5. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    At times, I have said to myself, “Todd, you have a good grasp on psychoneuroimmunology and yet you cannot help your wife.” Her situation is beyond me and it always will be.

    This is so true! We can gain all the information and facts we need to fix any problem and yet they remain wicked. You being in it with your wife, is the medicine and healing! I truly believe that who we are as people and how we are present in the lives of others is the medicine! Prayers and gratitude for both of the ways you are addressing your wicked problems!!

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