John Paul Carter
Although my wife finds it hard to believe, I’m a planner. Before I go to bed on Sunday night I like to lay out in my mind the coming week’s agenda. My list includes things that I want to do as well as things that I have to do. And the more free time I can find in the midst of the week’s activities, the better.
But as Robert Burns once said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men oft’ times go astray.” The unexpected happens and disrupts my plans — the lawn mower breaks down, there’s a family emergency, or someone needs my help. Often the interruptions are, in themselves, positive in nature — a phone call from a friend, a last minute invitation, or just too many worthy things going on at once.
Surely by now, I should have learned to expect interruptions and allow time for them in my planning. However, to be completely honest, sometimes these interruptions are more disruptive because I’ve procrastinated or gotten sidetracked somewhere along the way. Waiting until the last minute is one of my greatest faults. (When it comes to these columns, sometimes the deadline is my muse.)
Certainly, Jesus was no stranger to interruptions. Nicodemus sought him out after dark at the end of a busy day. An ailing woman in the crowd tugged at his cloak as he was making his way to the bedside of a sick child. As he was teaching in a crowded house, the roof opened up and a crippled man was lowered from above by his friends. Lepers and blind beggars called for his help as he journeyed from place to place.
When some mothers brought their children to Jesus to be blessed, his disciples tried to turn them away, implying that their Master was too busy with more important matters. Jesus scolded them and welcomed the children. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them,” he said, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Their intrusion lifted his spirits.
Indeed, it could be argued that Jesus' ministry was one of dealing with interruptions. However, He seems to have viewed his interruptions, not as distractions, but as opportunities to be about His father’s business.
In Jesus’ response to those many disruptions, we see one of the clearest pictures of God’s love for us. As the English poet John Donne (1575-1631) said: “God never says you should have come yesterday. He never says you must come again tomorrow but today, if you will hear His voice, today He will hear you ... All occasions invite His mercies and all time are His seasons.” God welcomes our interruptions.
No matter how carefully we plan, unforeseen interruptions are inevitable because there’s only so much that we can control — especially when it comes to other human beings. Although our initial reaction may be frustration or even resentment, the people in our lives have a priority all their own. When we see our interruptions through the eyes of Jesus, they become opportunities both to give and receive the gifts of grace and love. And in the end of the day, to our complete surprise, we may even discover that the annoying distraction was a divine intrusion.
Lord, remind us that our interruptions are sometimes more important than our disrupted plans. Amen..
John Paul Carter’s “Notes from the Journey” appear in the Democrat on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. Carter is an ordained minister who attends Central Christian Church.