Thursday, December 2, 2010
As I rode the train home and tried to decompress a bit, I thought of what more I needed to do after dinner to continue to make progress on the to-do list. My mind drifted into the interruptions and I realized that I had accomplished much of what I needed to and, more importantly, the interruptions were the best, most focused, most intensely felt, parts of my day. An encouraging phone call with a client in a very difficult situation with her children; a meeting with leaders in my firm about how to best exemplify our core values; a brief conversation in the hallway about Thanksgiving and vacations wished for; a long, unexpected conversation with a friend about our passion and calling in life, whether we are living it out, and if not, why not; and an email exchange with a friend about the our prayers for and the importance of the DREAM Act. Thinking of these moments is like looking back and seeing the presence of God even though I may not have noticed it necessarily at the time. Even with these "disruptions," I was extremely productive. Time somehow expanded in my day to fit what was to be experienced and accomplished.
I continued to think about these wonderful interruptions this morning and hoped I would have some more today. Then I thought about how so much of the healing Jesus did when he was here on earth began with an interruption.
For example, think of the story of the sick woman who touched Jesus' cloak as he was on his way to help the daughter of a synagogue ruler named Jairus. (Mark 5:21-43) Jairus' daughter was dying and Jesus started on his way to put his hands on the girl to heal her. This must have been quite a scene, and Jairus and his family had to have been in a hurry, wanting Jesus to arrive as quickly as possible to stop the pain and make sure their girl would live. But, as everyone rushed to the girl, a large crowd following and pressing around Jesus, the journey was interfered with, disrupted. A woman, described as having "suffered a great deal" with a bleeding disorder for 12 years, "came up behind [Jesus] in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'" And she was healed. But, the text says "[a]t once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched my clothes?'" The disciples got a little annoyed, asking "You see the people crowding against you . . .and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'" As if to say: How should we know? It's crowded. And you're God, shouldn't you know? I imagine they viewed this as a severe interruption of the plan to go save Jairus' daughter. And, Jairus undoubtedly viewed it this way, after all, his daughter was dying. In fact, during the interruption, Jairus' daughter died. Jesus was undeterred by such things, of course, and told Jairus: "Don't be afraid; just believe." (v.36) Jesus healed the interrupter and brought the girl back to life. Healed in the interruption.
Another example is when Jesus restored the sight of a blind beggar sitting on the roadside near Jericho. (Luke 18:35-43) Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jericho. The disciples must have had a to-do list in mind (if not written). They were interrupted by shouts from the side of the road: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" "Son of David, have mercy on me!" The disciples "rebuked" the man, telling him to be quiet. (Sometimes I have the same reaction as I'm working away and the phone rings, an email pops up, or someone enters my office -- I think "be quiet," "I'm busy," "go away.") Jesus had a very different reaction, asking the man to be brought to him, and then asking the man: "What do you want me to do for you?" The man, very simply, said: "Lord, I want to see." Jesus gave him sight. Healed in the interruption.
A couple other examples: when Jesus healed the paralyzed man lowered through the ceiling in middle of Jesus' teaching (Luke 5:17-26); when Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' home to bring forgiveness after spotting Zacchaeus up in a tree catching a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:1-9); when the little children, to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs, were brought to Jesus against the wishes of the disciples (Matt. 19:13-15). Healing and forgiveness in the interruption.
One last example, this one slightly different, because of who is interrupted, is when Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:1-26) She had her to-do list: go to the well and draw water for her household. But she was interrupted because Jesus was sitting near the well and had these words for her: "Will you give me a drink?" And, when she pointed out that Samaritans and Jews don't talk to each other (particularly an unmarried man and woman alone), he said: "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." You know the rest of the story . . . or, if not, take a look at it. The point is, healed/saved in the interruption.
God interrupts our to-do lists. In The Literate Farmer and the Planet Venus, Robert Frost said this about interruption:
"We need the interruption of the night
To ease attention off when overtight,
To break our logic in too long a flight,
And ask us if our premises are right."
Jesus seems to have viewed these encounters not as interruptions, but as intermissions -- a time to ask those around him if their premises were right. Intermission is a synonym for interruption. Synonyms of intermission include "respite" and "rest."
Note to self: pay attention to the interruptions (or, I mean, intermissions).