Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Cent. C.E.
It is Nic’s nature to persevere in kindness. It’s how I have a faithful patron after all my ways of disappointing him. It is who he is. So why would I expect anything other than his kindness when the shepherd asks us to stay on help? We both know the winter is coming on and our supplies will grow thin with a third person helping himself to all of it. And neither of us knows how much longer it will take to cross these mountains or even to find a village or farm that can set our supplies right again. Yet Nic agrees to stay on without giving it one little selfish thought.
Dear God, thank you for this example of selfless mercy. Amen.
The shepherd is a demanding master. His “duty instructions” are replete with detail. It’s not just, “watch the sheep.” It is more like: “The two of you will stay far apart, one on one side of the sheep, and the other on the other. There will be no talking with one another when you are on duty.”
It’s not like we are hired men who are paid. And we’re not the irresponsible sorts who would neglect the sheep simply to indulge in chatter; though there is a conversation Nic and I need to have without the watchful eye of the shepherd.
Just now the shepherd appears again at the hillcrest. This time he is sitting on our donkey with his crutch in one hand so that he can wallop the stationary beast into motion. But it is a donkey. Once it is stopped no amount of beating is going to get it moving. It is stilled by fear. We can see this thing is likely to go badly for the donkey as the shepherd dismounts and prepares to flail the beast. Nic is the closer of us. He calls to him.
“Stop! Brother Shepherd! If you wish to ride the donkey you will need to know something about donkeys!” Nic is hurrying to the top of the hill. If you beat the donkey it won’t go. Wait! I’ll show you!”
Nic reaches the man and the donkey before any harm is done. He takes the lead line in hand then takes the crutch from the shepherd and gives the lame man a leg up. Nic leads as the donkey takes a cautious step forward.
(Continues Tuesday, November 17)