Shepherding in Life’s Parentheses

I found holy purpose in the interruptions to my work.
Shepherding in Life’s Parentheses
Image: Portrait by Joel Kimmell

I am annoyed because of the demands which are thrust on me to write, arriving unannounced from here, there and everywhere. They interrupt and hold up all the other things we have so neatly lined up in order. They never seem to stop and can’t be put aside.
— Augustine of Hippo, from a letter to Possidius

About halfway through my second year of seminary, I found myself deep in the throes of a major research paper. I don’t remember exactly what the paper was about, but I am sure it was a matter of some great exegetical and theological import. At the time, I was also meaningfully involved in the shepherding ministry of our local church, so it was no surprise when I received an urgent call asking for my help.

A young husband (let’s call him Jack) wanted me to intervene after a tense confrontation between him and his new wife (we’ll call her Kate). This conflict had been simmering for some time. It included challenges related to mental health and suicidal tendencies, ...

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