Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Century
“So what will we do now?”
The father is buried. The sheep have no shepherd. The shepherd is grieving. The dog and the donkey are consoling. The winter is creeping down on us all from the north. We need to use these days for travel while we can.
Nic speaks it aloud, “Dear God, what should we do now?”
“You know Nic, God doesn’t always answer in the season of our need.”
“I know, Brother Laz, so we will need to make a human choice. Since you are so good at grief you should go to the house where the shepherd is.”
“’Good at grief?’ No one is good at grief. But I will take a turn to walk over the ridge to the house and even if I can do nothing to comfort the shepherd at least I can bring back the dog to help us guard the sheep tonight.”
“So you think we will stay another night?” Nic calls as I am leaving.
“I counted eighty-seven sheep last night, Nic, just so you’ll know; in case you decide to count them again.”
I walk toward the smoke rising on this crispy autumn morning considering every possibility my imagination can muster except the one that says Nic and I can winter in a sheep’s pasture with no one but an angry, grieving shepherd to bring us our daily gruel. The choices seem either we leave the shepherd alone and needy or we spend the winter in a pasture lean-to.
The house was easy to find, not just by the smoke but by the worn footpath. And it’s surely been a long night of wailing here. Even the donkey and the dog are, or were, asleep out here near the door. At the sound of my step the dog is barking furiously and the shepherd has come to the door of the little house.
“I came down to offer my sympathy and see how you are doing.”
“So the soldier told you I need a Christian?”
“No, I just came while Nic is taking a turn watching the sheep. We aren’t sure if they need to be watched every minute or if you leave them up there sometimes on their own. We’ve not had much experience shepherding.”
“Yea, I was thinking you two aren’t much use, but now I’m so alone.” Tears of grief well in his voice. “So I will need to capture some slaves to help me.”
“Surely you need help, but …”
(Continues Tuesday, November 24)