You sit down to eat supper and the doorbell rings. Or you settle down to watch your favorite TV show, and one of your kids yells, “MOM!” Or you go to use the bathroom and the phone rings.
We all have them: interruptions—those things that break into our world and disturb whatever we are intent upon doing. Interruptions are an inevitable part of daily living. Yet sometimes we get impatient, upset, or even angry when they occur. Let’s look more closely at interruptions and we might gain a more positive attitude toward them.
Why can interruptions be so difficult? First, they require change. Being interrupted means we must stop one activity and change to another. We are happily puttering outside in the garden, for example, and now we have to stop, get into the car, and drive to the store for something. Or we’re trying to talk with a friend and now we have to stop because our toddler is pestering us for something. Interruptions are hard because change is hard. As the old proverb says: “The only person who welcomes change is a wet baby.”
Interruptions are difficult also because they infringe upon our freedom and control. We live with the illusion that we control our lives. Interruptions are a constant reminder of how little freedom and control we actually have. At any moment we can be stopped from doing what we want to do or have planned to do—usually by someone in need.
Which brings us to the third reason interruptions are hard: they demand self-sacrifice. If we are reading a novel and someone asks us a simple question, the sacrifice may be a small one, requiring only a short response. But if we have planned to do a major project, and a desperate elderly neighbor calls and asks if we can take her to the doctor, the demand may be considerably greater, requiring hours of our time. Interruptions demand self-sacrifice—and since when is self-sacrifice easy?
The question arises, then, how might we cope with interruptions more patiently, more gracefully? Here are two ways. First, expect them. Why can we act so surprised when we get interrupted? Do we really expect our days to be a seamless garment? Or are they more like a beautiful patchwork quilt of many pieces?
And secondly, we can see interruptions more positively if we focus on the interrupter rather than the interruption itself. Most interruptions are caused by a person who needs our help. Focus on the person who is doing the interrupting. By doing this, we can grow in charity and compassion.
In all of this we can look to Jesus who not only experienced interruptions, he used them to impart his blessings. He was relaxing at a wedding reception when his mother interrupted him with the words, “They have no wine.” We all know what happened next. Later on Jesus was on his way to cure a little girl when an ailing woman interrupted him by touching the fringes of his garment. Instantly, power went forth from him and she was cured. After giving his attention to this woman, Jesus moved on to the little girl.
But Jesus’ greatest interruption was his death at a relatively young age. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus struggled profoundly with his impending death, but in the end he was able to say to God, “Not my will but yours be done.” In accepting this interruption, Jesus brought salvation to the world. Let us pray that we, like Jesus, can view interruptions as opportunities to live more fully and freely for others. If we do this, then interruptions can become blessings in disguise—for the people who interrupt us and for ourselves.
How do you ordinarily respond to interruptions? Have any of them turned out to be a blessing in disguise for you?