the divine interrupter.

I got robo-called the other day.

Luckily I did not follow my first instincts… which were to hang up the phone as soon as I heard the voice telling me, “Don’t hang up! This is an important call!” 

I say “luckily” because this robo-call was from my trash company reminding me that because of the Labor Day holiday my trash day would be delayed 24 hours.

“Finally…” I thought to myself. “An unexpected interruption in my life that brought me information that was actually USEFUL!” Somehow I had completely forgotten the fact that the Labor Day holiday was just around the corner. And so the little friendly reminder robo-call from Deffenbaugh Industries was very timely and helpful to me.

But it also prompted me to stop and ask, “How many of the things that I call ‘interruptions’ to my day fail to measure up to my criteria for being considered positive or useful?” My robo-call from Deffenbaugh was clearly valuable and beneficial for me. I was grateful to receive it and nearly tried to call them back and thank them for the helpful reminder.

But what about the person who dropped in to my office just needing to chat for a minute (which turned into 15)? What about the unexpected phone call requesting some financial help? What about the email that raised challenging questions about a recent sermon? Or the children racing up and down the hallway outside my door while I was trying to write my sermon?

Certainly none of these things were on my carefully crafted “to do” list. And most of them took me away from something else I was doing that I considered an important priority. And yet, in every case these interruptions stretched me in the way I understand what “being in ministry” really means. They each offered me a new way to serve.

All of which led to the question: Is it at all possible that these things we call interruptions might actually have some kind of divine origin? Could God be intentionally seeking to jostle us … gently intruding on our intensely focused concentration on checking off the next thing on the “To Do” list and saying, “Hey! Look up a minute! Look around! Check out these people I’ve put in your life! Aren’t they awesome! Don’t you just love their ideas and their ears and their energy and their quirks and their fingernails? Russell, you will never, ever possibly get how much I love them – and you too, for that matter – but you can at least look up and NOTICE them for a minute, can’t you?!”

And so maybe that is why we decided to follow God’s guidance and invented holidays like Labor Day. They give us that interval in time where we have the chance to see nothing as an “interruption” and to momentarily marvel at the world that surrounds us.

A wise person once observed that it is really hard for a fish to notice and be thankful for the water it swims in. But since we are slightly higher functioning vertebrates than fish, perhaps you and I can make it a point to regularly be thankful for the grace and beauty WE swim in every day, can’t we?

Take every advantage of this holiday – if you are able – as a time to step back and allow yourself to be “interrupted” and when you are, to give thanks for the very thing that interrupted you. It could just be God’s way of bumping your elbow and saying, “Hey! Look up! I love you!”

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