I hate interruptions. I find them particularly annoying. Put me in front of a computer and give me an article to write or a pile of photos to edit, and I have no problem staying focused. When the house needs cleaning, I set aside a day and get the entire place sparkling. When digging in the garden, I might forget to come in for lunch. And when I read a book, I often read all 400 or so pages in one sitting, even to the point of staying up half the night.
While this predilection to concentrate can be an asset when it comes to getting tasks done, it isn’t so helpful when it comes to relationships. Almost by definition, doing anything with another person tends to involve interruptions. That’s the reason we do things together in the first place. Parenting takes this to an extreme. As anyone who’s ever raised a two-year-old knows, kids are nothing but interruptions!
Over the years, I’ve learned to cope with having my train of thought derailed. I’m a grown-up; I can deal with it. I’ve even gotten pretty good at hiding my annoyance. I can tell I’ve made progress because often now I really am glad that you called! But it’s still an area where the Holy Spirit is doing major repairs, and I know it.
In fact, my continuing need for improvement became glaringly obvious a couple of weeks ago with my most important relationship of all. I was reading Good or God, by John Bevere (which I reviewed last Friday) when I came to a chapter on submission and obedience. As a new believer at age 18, I quickly learned that God wants us to submit to and obey Him. I thought by now I had it down pat—after all, I’ve had forty-plus years to practice. Listen to God and do what He says! Got it.
In this chapter, Bevere makes the point that not only are we to obey, but we are to do it quickly. He illustrates this with a story about a time when he was watching a football game. Right at the game’s climax, God told him to turn off the TV and go pray, but instead he procrastinated until the final outcome was decided. Less than ten minutes later, when he finally got down on his knees, God wouldn’t answer. As Bevere says, he had demonstrated that, at least at that moment, football was more important to him than God!
As I read along, I began to squirm. That could have been me. How many times I’ve been guilty of telling God to please wait a sec while I …. In my case, it wasn’t just football—it was everything!
I was appalled.
Quickly offering up an apology, I asked for help to do better. And as God so often does when we pray to improve in some way, He answered in abundance.
I spent the entire afternoon being interrupted by the Holy Spirit. For example,
- I had been knitting a hat. With three stitches left in the row, I sensed God wanted me to lay it down and pray.
- I was making lunch when He told me to stop and read a chapter in my book.
- Then, with one page left in the chapter, I was prompted to get up, go get my Bible, and read a particular verse.
Actually, it was the perfect time for a lesson. It’s difficult to hear the quiet prodding of the Holy Spirit in the midst of noise and hurry, but we were tucked away on a joint personal retreat in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I had lots of time and very little to do. It was easy to give God my full attention.
Later that afternoon, I settled into a comfy chair with a warm quilt and my book when Pete announced he was going into town to get online and pick up his email. I happily decided to stay right where I was, enjoy some solitude, and perhaps pop some corn as well. Instead, God told me to put my shoes on and go with Pete. Now came the big test—would I shrug it off, assuming that God couldn’t possibly have an opinion on such a mundane issue, or would I put down the book, extract myself from the chair, skip the popcorn, and obey?
Pete and I had a good time in town. After dinner, we made some popcorn. I think God was pleased.
Years ago, when I taught high school biology, I tried to include as many labs as possible for each chapter. Book learning is fine, but it’s the actual experience that cements the lesson. As I got into bed that night, I realized that the afternoon I had just spent was a “lab” teaching me to let God interrupt my life. I hope I got an A.