Sometimes an interruption is a tap on the shoulder from God—that was the message at this year’s Fresno Pacific University Fall Convocation.

Sonia Pranger, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work and director of the Master in Social Work program—and winner of the university’s 2023 NETA (Nickel Excellence in Teaching Award)—spoke at the half-hour ceremony Wednesday, August 30, in the Special Events Center on the main FPU campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno. New students were welcomed with applause and cheers by faculty, complete with academic garb, staff and administrators as they entered the SEC and new employees were also recognized.

Pranger pointed out that, as a mother of four, she is familiar with interruptions. “Most people wouldn’t describe this word pleasantly,” she said.

Most of us spend our lives planning for their future: students plan their education and careers, faculty plan programs, couples plan weddings and families and sooner or later everyone plans their retirement, she said. “We are by nature people who want to know their way.”

The Bible affirms planning in Proverbs 21:5, 15:22 and 29:18. “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty,” Pranger quoted. “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success.”

Interruptions disrupt our careful plans and make it hard to maintain balance. We shift, move, adjust and—worst of all—feel we are losing control. But challenging as it can be, the Bible also states we need to leave margin for God intervene, to teach, to speak. Pranger again turned to Proverbs: 19:21—“You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail,” or 16:9—“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

This can all be traumatic, so it’s important to think about interruptions in a new way. “In the mental health field, we talk about the word reframing,” Pranger said. In short, if we look at interruptions in a different light, we can begin to view them in positive ways. When we reframe interruptions from something terrible and scary to something good for us, we may welcome these interruptions when they come our way. 

“I have discovered over time that God does not bring about calamity in the form of interruptions in our lives,” Pranger said. “In Jeremiah 29:11 the Word of God states, ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Becoming emotional, Pranger spoke of a time over 25 years ago when she was on a path to physical and spiritual death and felt God’s tap on her shoulder. “His beautiful interruption changed my life,” she said. “I could not have imagined or dreamt that someone who secretly wanted to die would years later be helping and teaching people who have experienced trauma and pain.” 


PHOTO (from left): Sonia Pranger, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work; Brooke Barham, student activities leader; and André Stephens, Ph.D., president of FPU.



Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations