Years ago, my older and wiser friend used to say, “Don’t be irritated when your plans are interrupted. Even when you’re running late, and stopped by every red light, see interruptions to your schedule as God’s good providence, possibly protecting you from a car wreck, or some other harm.” I drank in her words of truth and breathed more calmly at stop lights.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about how God’s interruptions aren’t only meant to protect me, but also to sanctify me. (How’s this for an example? As I was writing this, I was interrupted twice by an innocent someone, and heard these grumbling thoughts in my head: “I’m trying to write about interruptions here — could you please not need me for just a minute?”) Ahh.
Elisabeth Elliot and C. S. Lewis, older and wiser friends for us all, have helped with these particular thoughts:
“We do not tolerate interruptions. We want to finish our work according to schedule. … Do we stop for a minute to give our full attention to the interruption? Have we ever considered what our habitual response says to our interrupters? Are we giving the signal that our selfish activity is more important than the interrupter? … In my selfish desire to do things my way, I may not realize that interruptions could be God’s way of getting my attention to do His will and not my will. My will is to complete my work for my organization on schedule or to enjoy myself in my activities. His will could be He wants me to develop patience, tolerance … If only we can be helped to see that the trifling things we are interrupted to do are our work for God—then we may be less prone to impatience and anger. “(Elisabeth Elliot)
“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. What one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” (C.S. Lewis)
Wise friends, those we know well, and those we’ve only known from books, can help with wise words. Only God, though, can convict a selfish heart, making possible real change, and thereby, giving true joy as we embrace the real life He is sending.
Father, our hearts badly need your sanctifying work. Break in to our imaginings of our deserved, “real” life: help us see that the trifling things we’re interrupted to do are our work for you, are our real life. We want to live lives of deep joy and happy excitement because we trust that you use interruptions (and the people who interrupt) to work the abiding fruit of patience in us, pruning out ugly self-centered irritation. Help us! Change us! Interrupt us!
“We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.”