Why I intentionally shot myself in the foot

You know the times I’m talking about. You do something that you know is the best thing, but it costs you. We’ve all done it but it isn’t always easy. Well, I recently intentionally shot myself in the foot.

Last week I handed in the dissertation for my bachelor of theology degree at seminary. For the past 6 years I have been studying part time and working full time in local church ministry. There have been so many ups and downs that I couldn’t even begin to describe.

When I posted on my social media feeds that is finished and handed in the work, I received a lot of support and encouragement. The topic I chose was ‘Pastoring the Depressed’. I wrote it hoping that it would become a practical guide for pastors to know how to care for the depressed.

But, in the process I intentionally shot myself in the foot. Here’s how; instead of playing the academic game, I went practical.

Sure, I could have written an academic dissertation assessing the newest literature out there, or writing an exegesis on the typical Bible passages on depression. I could have played it safe an written an academic paper that would get me a higher grade and bumped up my average mark of my whole degree. So why didn’t I? Why did I shoot myself in the foot?

Because I wanted the dissertation to be helpful. I wanted to write a piece of work that I could learn a lot from in the process of writing. I wanted to write something that would be helpful for pastors and Christians to know how to care for the depressed. I wanted to write something that might help people instead of simply gathering dust on a shelf.

My dissertation is by no means a model of academic excellence. I did engage a bit more academically with some stuff than I wanted to really, but hey, I had to make sure that I actually passed the degree after 6 years. I wrote the dissertation in more of a book format, easy to read, simple and helpful headings and in sections that you could read individually if necessary.

I wrote the dissertation in that way because that’s what I wanted. I wish I had read a book when I started in pastoral ministry that outlined some practical do’s and don’t’s. I wish I’d read a book that gave me a working definition of depression and spoke about people’s different experiences of it. I wish I had read a book that gave me the confidence in what I was doing right and challenged me on the things I was doing wrong.

So yeah, I shot myself in the foot a little bit, but it was on purpose. Who knows what happens next, I might release some of the contents in the form of blog posts in the coming months. In the future I may consider finding publishers who might be interested in letting me do more work on it and turn it into a book. It may sit there and gather dust after all. The main thing is that in the process of writing about how to pastor the depressed, I think I became a better pastor to those around me suffering with depression.

It isn’t always about playing the game, or playing it safe. Sometimes it’s necessary to do something that you know is better, even if there is a cost to it.

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