Two very simple curved lines standing on end… () You can do so much with them. Add a colon to one of them, and you get a smile. :) Add the same colon to the other, and you get the opposite. :( Adding a semicolon helps you communicate snarkiness or playfulness. ;)
Winks, smiles, frowns. These little curved lines are so useful in written communication.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition defines parentheses as:
used to mark off explanatory or qualifying remarks in writing or printing or enclose a sum, product, or other expression considered or treated as a collective entity in a mathematical operation.
A qualifying or amplifying word, phrase, or sentence inserted within written matter in such a way as to be independent of the surrounding grammatical structure.
A comment departing from the theme of discourse; a digression.
I find that I use parentheses often in my writing (perhaps because I digress a lot?). They are wonderful tools for further explanation or amplifying a thought or point you’ve just made. People know what you’re doing and permit you to mentally wander a bit when you use parantheses.
One curved line is a parenthesis. When you contain a though within two lines, they are plural and become parentheses.
"Notes from the Trail" is a reader-supported publication. When you become (or invite someone to become) a subscriber, you’re an encouragement to me, and in a sense you’re saying, “Write more! Do it again.”
(What is a life parentheses?)
I was visiting with a friend the other day, and I shared that my time as a campus minister in Arkansas was incredibly special. I served eight years on a campus in southeast Arkansas, and those were years of amazing spiritual and personal and leadership growth for me - and for the ministry. Many of the young adults I served with then are now serving in ministry themselves. Others who aren’t in vocational ministry are living distinctly Jesus-honoring lives in their communities and serving in churches across the nation (and world).
It was a joyfully humbling season. Looking back always brings back humble and holy memories. That special season of my life seemed incredibly fruitful, and there are days I wonder if it was the most fruitful season of my life. I know that is not true, but it was so deeply special, that I do wonder.
That season as an Arkansas campus minister, from 1995-2003 is a life parentheses for me. It’s marked off, set aside, and those years within imaginary curved lines add to the rest of my life, explain it and further qualify who I am as a person.
Sometimes we have seasons of life like that. They are special, significant, memorable and unique. They belong in () - symbolically. Perhaps you’re in a life parentheses right now?
Another life parentheses
The wonderful thing about these little curved lines is that you can use them whenever you want to amplify or define (though their overuse can be distracting). (See what I did there?) ;)
I have another life parentheses that is marked off and adds color and character to my life. After my stint as a campus minister, I planted a church and pastored it for six years. That adventure was one of the hardest of my life. Carolyn agrees. We learned so much as we walked deeply by faith and had to daily pray - often agonizingly for provision, wisdom, strength and help.
And yet, I remember distinctly our weekly elders’ meetings at 6:00 a.m. on Thursdays. We sat around a long table and discussed church business, growth in faith of our members, prayed together and deepened our friendship with one another as we did so.
I’m a scarer. I enjoy scaring people. Often on those early Thursdays, I’d hide somewhere in the church and jump out with a scream as bleary-eyed guys entered a room. I considered it a blessing to them to help them be fully awake and prepared to do the Lord’s blessing. (That is, until someone showed me Proverbs 27:14.)
On one of those early mornings, I arrived to see I was the first car in the parking lot. I was totally unprepared for the cardiac arrest I received when I went to the kitchen to make coffee, and a “friend” screamed and kicked open the kitchen cabinet he’d curled up into just as I attempted to pour water (everywhere) into the coffee pot.
Those days with our new church plant, core group, special friends and leaders were another life parentheses.
I’m in the “in-between” even now
We moved to Blacksburg, Virginia in the summer of 2009. “(“ started then - the opening parenthesis. I feel I’m in the beautiful in-between of a glorious life parentheses even now. I have no idea when “)” - the closing parenthesis will come, but right now… extended moments that will magnify, define, shape and add more meaning to all that’s come before.
How about you?
What life parentheses have you experienced? What special seasons of life have defined and added meaning and significance to who you are?
I’ve often encouraged people over the years to meditate with gratitude on these wonderful moments that help you grow, deepen and become. They add color and meaningfulness to all that’s come prior. And they will remain as distinctly set apart for as long as you seize quiet moments to “read” over (think back through) the seasons and experiences of your life. They are instructive, sometimes even funny, but most often, they simply help elaborate and tell your story in a more creative way.
“If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him.”