I don’t like being interrupted. If I’m really honest with myself, I’m the kind of person who likes to know what to expect from each day, have my plan set out, and hopefully enjoy a few moments of down time at the end of the day. I like to think most of us operate like this to a greater or lesser degree, but I can only speak for myself. On my better days I go ahead and deal kindly and patiently when I am interrupted (on my less than better days, well….). Sadly, though, there is almost always at least a little feeling of “ugh… I was just about to…” that enters my mind.
People of the Christian faith are often reminded to look to the example of Jesus Christ to instruct us in how to live our lives. This past Sunday, in the weekly epistle reading at our parish, we were reminded by St. Paul that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This means that Jesus understands what we go through, because He actually entered into the human experience in order to show us the way to God. We know that He suffered, that He was tempted, that He wept. But what does Jesus say and do about being interrupted?
Well, something that might not be obvious at first, but actually comes up time and again in the Gospels is the fact that Jesus was interrupted. He was interrupted all the time. He dealt with people who were in need and were not afraid to “impose” on Him. Among the clearest examples of this is in Mark 5:24-43. To begin, it says that Jesus was traveling and was “pressed about on all sides.” There was a crowd of people around Him. This, no doubt, made efficient movement from point A to point B significantly more difficult. And then, in the midst of this crowd, one woman, who was in great need dares to press through the crowd and simply touch His garment, hoping for her condition to be improved. Parents of small children know what it’s like to be going about one’s day, and to have our “garments” touched, a small, needy hand tugging at our shirt, interrupting us in the hopes of having their condition improved. Sometimes we respond patiently, sometimes we don’t. But how does Jesus respond? Simply put: He notices her. He notices one person interrupting Him in the midst of the crowd. He takes the time to listen and minister to her. It is a reminder of God’s great patience with all of us when we call out to Him in need – a reminder that He still notices us, in the midst of all creation, and takes the time to listen and minster to us.
But the interruption doesn’t end there in the Gospel story. It says that, even while Jesus is healing this woman, someone else comes up to Him and begs for healing for his daughter, who was on her deathbed a distance away. Some of the people there try to step in and rebuke the man for interrupting Jesus. They say, “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Often we are interrupted with people who are in need that seems too great to overcome. We can become frustrated at the seeming waste of time it would be to try to help. But how does Jesus respond to the man’s request in the Gospel? Jesus, again, listens intently to the request, and ministers to the man, telling him that his daughter has been healed at that very hour.
We can miss the ways that God wants to meet us every day when we’re not present and “awake” to the everyday interruptions. Sometimes interruptions come to remind us to slow down and remember what is truly needful. Sometimes interruptions come because God is calling us to do something extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. We never know how much a kind word, a helpful act; a listening ear can be the thing that changes someone’s life in a profound way.
A helpful prayer that I’ve been trying to make a part of my life, to help me remember that interruptions are often places where we can meet Christ is this: “Lord, who would You have me serve today? Lord, show me where You want me to encounter You today – help me be awake to know, and courageous enough to act.” Feel free to add it to your prayer life as well. A word of warning, though: expect to be interrupted.