May I interrupt you for a minute? Do you have a second? I promise this won't take long. Excuse me, can I ask you a question?
Sound familiar? You've probably heard those questions at work or at home. You've experienced those times when someone or something distracts you and changes your focus. Perhaps you are trying to focus on an important task at work. Maybe you are in the middle of a conversation or attempting to mark off the next item on your to-do list. You are facing a deadline on an important project, but the interruptions keep you from your work.
Unwelcome interruptions happen quite often and can be very frustrating and downright aggravating. The interruptions can serve to slow us down and distract us. Interruptions can keep us from what we think is most important. Intrusions on our time and schedules often leave us feeling annoyed.
As I read the gospels, I'm reminded that Jesus knew something about interruptions. Someone was always in need and Jesus was willing to stop and help. A woman touched the hem of his garment. A blind man shouted from the crowd. A crowd numbering 5000 needed some food. A Samaritan woman needed some living water. A little girl needed to be healed.
I'm also reminded of the story in Mark 2:1-12. Jesus is at the house of Peter and a crowd has gathered to hear his teachings. The people are jammed tightly together on the porch, around the door, and inside the house. Four individuals carrying their paralyzed friend show up, hoping to get their friend to Jesus for healing.
By-passing the crowd, the friends begin to carry their sick friend up a stairway to the rooftop. They then begin removing tiles, digging through a layer of straw and mud. Peter and some in the crowd look up as pieces of dried mud starting falling into the living room. The four individuals use ropes and begin lowering the pallet carrying their friend down into the center of the room. Jesus was interrupted.
Jesus looks up to see the faces of the four friends standing on the roof and he saw their faith. Jesus knew they had gone to great lengths to bring their friend to him for healing. Jesus knew they believed he could heal their friend. He knew the faith of this man on the pallet - and he pronounces both forgiveness and healing. He tells the man to get up, take his mat, and go home. The crowd said, "We have seen remarkable things today" and it was all because of an interruption.
Jesus was interrupted by human need. He experienced interruptions throughout his ministry, but he welcomed those moments as opportunities. Perhaps we would do well to begin seeing interruptions not as annoying or bothersome, but as opportunities for giving, helping and serving. Doing so, we might come to believe what Henri Nouwen said, "My whole life I've been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work."
Interruptions. Are they taking you from your work or to your work?