Shepherd’s Care: A Loss-Prone Vocation

You may notice that I occasionally refer to Dr. Archibald Hart in my writing about ministry and stress.  Dr. Hart taught for many years at Fuller and was a great help to countless clergy in my generation.  I believe he saw the problems we’re exploring and offered real help in solving them.

One of his insights was that ministry is a loss-prone vocation.  It may be something intangible like the loss of vision, or something as tangible as the loss we feel when we move from one location to another, leaving good friends behind.

Hart simply said that these “losses” can pile up faster than we can process them.  He then wisely called us to (as the old hymn puts it) “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  This is not a kind of magical hand off, but it is a medicinal release—in the spirit of the Serenity Prayer.

In the same way, Eugene Peterson’s reminder that one of the best prayers in the world is , “Help!” can at least move us to where we can realize we are not along—that Another is pulling in the yoke with us.

I am outside my field of expertise when I write about things like this, but not outside of my experience.  Whether we have to seek professional help, or not, we must find ways to “de-fang” the past, as we realize that the losses are real, but not inherently powerful enough to destroy us.

If ours is a loss-prone vocation, our only option is to find a way to allow the losses to come (vs. denial) without drowning as they rise higher and higher.  Counseling can help.  Community can help.  Communion with God can help.  But nothing will help if we try to bail out our boat alone and with a very small bucket at that.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Shepherd’s Care: A Loss-Prone Vocation

  1. Rhonda Stapleton says:

    Very timely, Steve. This is just what I needed today. Thank you for the post! – Rhonda

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