In the July edition of my In Good Faith column, I write about the opportunity found in embracing "holy interruptions." Also about getting stuffed on the basketball court by my 16-year-old son.
Pardon the Interruption
There’s a show that airs on ESPN called Pardon the Interruption and it gives me agita. It’s a roundup of the day’s sports news hosted by a couple of loud, contentious talking heads with strongly voiced opinions about…everything. It’s kind of like the sports version of the McLaughlin Group, the long-running PBS news show that puts liberals and conservatives around a table and lets them have at it. Both shows are 30 minutes of people interrupting one another in what is basically, at least to my ears, a verbal food fight.
Much of ministry, like life itself, is an interruption. You can plan out your day and yet, depending on what arises, it often veers off in a completely different direction. Those plans you had to write that newsletter article? That gets trumped when you get a phone call that someone took a fall and is being transported to South Shore Hospital. Or that time you carved out to sit in your office and go over the budget for an upcoming meeting? That goes out the window when a parishioner comes in with news that her father just died.
You can either rue the disruption of your regular routine or you can view it as an opportunity to serve others. And you learn pretty quickly that people are much more important than your own calendar or deadlines or to-do list.
Jesus certainly knew what it was to get interrupted. During his brief, what I like to call “rock star” phase, when people hounded him wherever he went, his life was one long interruption. He couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting his attention or a healing touch or a chance to take a selfie with him. If he wanted a quiet moment for renewal he had to slip away by cover of darkness to find a place to pray — and even then people caught up with him and interrupted his private devotions with their own needs and concerns. Something he never once complained about.
In fact, Jesus’ own approach to interruptions helps to shift our perspective. While we often view interruptions as a great source of annoyance and frustration, we can all thank God for what I like to call “holy interruptions” — unplanned interactions with others that make a difference in our own lives or those of others.
The thing is you have to be open to the holy interruptions that present themselves. Sometimes it means putting your phone away and really listening. It means seeing the divine in others even when we’d really rather not get involved. It means being flexible as we go about our days — flexible enough to leave room for people who may be hurting or vulnerable or seeking a word of comfort from a friend or stranger. It means cultivating an awareness to those in our midst rather than remaining so inwardly focused.
The opportunity for holy interruptions happen all the time — both at home and at work. There are days when I come home from the office grateful for a chance to finally sit down and unwind. It’s usually at that very moment that my boys want me to go out and shoot hoops with them. And I don’t want to. I’m tired physically and tired emotionally from a full day and I’m tired of playing two-on-one against them and having my 6-foot-tall 16-year-old swat away my shots like Shaq playing one-one-one with Spudd Webb. But more often than not, I go out anyway because these holy interruptions won't be there forever. And I’m always glad I did even as I suffer yet another basketball beatdown.
I encourage you to reflect on the possibilities for such holy interruptions in your own life. Don’t pardon the interruption but embrace it. Allow interruptions to instruct rather than disrupt. And know that your life will be all the richer for it.