My guess is that your day is filled with countless interruptions (my son just burst into my at-home office, telling me he "needed to go potty," just as I was typing these words!) The question we all need to ask is: how are we responding to the interruptions?
Anger. Agitation. Frustration.
I know my quickest response to an interruption is anger, agitation, or frustration. This is how I normally react when my two-year old walks into my office telling me he needs to go pee. Again! "For crying out loud. Why can't you do it by yourself!" That's how the thought process in my head normally goes (by God's grace it didn't this time).
It's sad that I still react in this way. One would think that I'd be used to the interruptions by now. Or that I would at least respond more graciously. But because of my sinful heart, I react in a surprisingly agitated way almost every time. Because, when I'm interrupted, I feel like my world and my time are being taken away. It's a pride issue. And at it's core is the reality that I want to be the uninterrupted god of my own world.
It's an unhealthy and unrealistic way to live.
But again, by God's grace, it's a place that each of us can grow out of and more into the image of Jesus. By looking to Jesus, we can see how to rightly respond to and receive the interruptions of our day.
Listen to this passage from the Gospel of Mark:
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you.' And he said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.' And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.'" - Mark 1:35-39
Jesus simply wanted some alone time, and he went to great efforts to get it. The text tells us that he woke up "very early in the morning, while it was still dark." Jesus was intentionally trying to get away. To be alone. He didn't want to be interrupted.
But he was.
It didn't take long before they found him. His disciples. The crowds. All the people in the world who needed him (we're awfully needy as sinners, aren't we).
What I love about the passage is Jesus's response. There was no anger. No frustration. No disgust with the fact that he had been found, interrupted, and pulled away from his devotions with his Father. No. Jesus simply went on with his day as if the interruption was part of what he was supposed to be doing. He went with the interruption, not as though it was interrupting his work, but as though it was his work.
Jesus, more than anyone else, understood what it meant to be interrupted. He faced the ultimate interruption in our place by becoming a man, and having his life of eternal glory with the Father interrupted. And he would eventually go to a cross, and his life of perfect union with the Father would be interrupted. But it was interrupted for us.
To put it simply: Jesus responded perfectly to interruptions in our place and on our behalf!
C.S. Lewis on interruptions
C.S. Lewis had some great thoughts on interruptions. He captures well in words what Jesus did in life. He clarifies for us that instead of viewing interruptions as moments that interrupt our work, we instead need to see that interruptions are our work. Listen to this:
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life–the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it's hard to remember it all the time.*
Embracing the interruptions
Moments of uninterrupted time are wonderful, but they aren't real life. The reality is that most of life is interrupted, but it's also in those interruptions that life is lived. Jesus shows us, and C.S. Lewis explains to us, that every interruption is an opportunity to be embraced as what it is–real life. Interruptions are real life moments that we're given every day, not to be angry at, but to receive and use for God's glory.
This means that when my two-year old busts into my office 15 minutes from now needing to go potty again, I can receive it as part of my real life work and joyfully take him to go potty. And believe it or not, this act is just as pleasing to God (if not more) as praying or preparing sermons!
What about you? How are you going to respond to interruptions today? Are you going to react in anger because your imagined world of uninterrupted perfection is being interrupted? Or are you going to receive (as Jesus did for you) what your real life work is?
* Quoted from What's Best Next, chapter 18, by Matt Perman. Originally quoted: Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1989), 335.