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Have you ever had your day planned out flawlessly when you wake up, but by noon it’s a complete disaster because you have had constant interruptions derail your entire to-do list? That 5-minute phone call that drags on 45 minutes because the other person can’t take the hint to hang up, that group message that is blowing up your phone, spilled coffee – and now it’s lunchtime, so you should probably get food before you attempt to restart your day! There’s nothing quite like the frustration of feeling like you’re giving all of your energy but trudging through the mud!
Whenever business-as-usual is interrupted we have two options – turn towards God or turn away from God. I don’t mean “turn away from God” in the ominous, walk away from your faith kind of way. I believe interruptions are God’s invitations into a deeper relationship with Him, and we can either press into that or turn away from it. On a global scale, 2020 has been one giant exercise in being interruptible! Our entire world has been interrupted, all of our routines have paused, and our year has been a process of restructuring our expectations and adjusting to the interruption. But there is SO MUCH to be gained by being interruptible in our walk with Jesus.
One thing that I love about looking at the life and ministry of Jesus is He is extremely interruptible. The majority of the miracles in the Bible began as interruptions! Isn’t that crazy? If you look at the context of Jesus’ miracles almost every single one of them happens while Jesus was trying to do something else!
“And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.'” – Luke 5:18-20
Jesus was in the middle of preaching when a group of people lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof so Jesus could heal him. When Jesus went to heal Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter who had died, Mark 5:22-43 talks about Jairus approaching Jesus as He was getting out of a boat to ask for his daughter to be healed. The woman with the issue of blood interrupted Jesus walk to Jairus’ house when she reached out and touched Jesus’ clothes. Jesus paused to find her and tell her she was healed and free from her suffering (Mark 5:34). Another story you hear a lot in church is about the 10 lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when the lepers called out for Him to heal them, Jesus replied telling them to show themselves to the priest. However, only one paused while following Jesus’ direction and turned back to thank God for the healing he had experienced. Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” In this story, Jesus was just walking and yet He was interruptible and available to heal the men he encountered on the way. Beyond that, the one who came back let his obedience to Jesus’ words be interrupted by praise and thanksgiving, and Jesus acknowledged his faith as part of his healing.
This is such an important reminder; sometimes we need to pause – even in our obedience to Jesus’ directions – and let our hearts be interrupted to praise God for what He has done in our lives! To think 9/10 of those lepers were dutifully obeying Jesus’ request, but it was the ONE who let his obedience be interrupted who delighted Jesus’ heart and grew the most in relationship with Jesus that day. Let that sink in for a minute! I pray that each one of you remembers that even when you’re walking in obedience to your calling, and diligently following what Jesus has called you to, there is an opportunity and invitation in the interruptions that will grow your relationship with Jesus more than blind obedience ever could. There is greater healing in turning back towards Jesus and allowing ourselves to be interrupted.
Did you know that scientific research has determined that the two key factors to a successful relationship are kindness and generosity? I am a total nerd for applying secular relationship advice to my walk with God. This one floored me! As a 2015 article by Business Insider summarizes, psychologists John Gottman and Robert Levenson set up “The Love Lab” in 1986 at the University of Washington to research how newlywed couples interacted and to follow up six years later and see if they were still married or divorced. There is SO MUCH in this study, but what stood out to me was that a lot of relationship success boiled down to how each person reacted to their spouse’s “bids” for connection – as Gottman called them. In a modern context, these “bids” may be seeing a funny meme or video and saying, “You have to see this, it’s hilarious!” The person you’re requesting connection from can either “turn toward” or “turn away” from your bid for connection. Turning toward looks like stopping what they’re doing, jumping into what you want to show them for that moment, and being present with what you’ve deemed important. Turning away may look like saying, “Just send it to me, I’ll watch it later.” Or “I’m busy, stop interrupting me.” At the six-year follow-up, Gottman found those who had a 3/10 ratio of “turn towards” responses as newlyweds were divorced, and the lasting couples had a 9/10 “turn towards” ratio as newlyweds. Beyond that, Gottman said successful couples have a habit of “scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for.”
Ok, my geeking out moment is done, for now, I promise – but I highly recommend the full article if you’re as fascinated by this as I am! Let’s put this into the context of being interrupted by Jesus! When Jesus interrupts our day, either with the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit prompting us to do something or with a more obvious interruption like seeing a homeless person and feeling the tug on your heart to buy them food, etc. He is giving us a “bid” for connection. We have the option to turn toward that bid and strengthen the relationship or turn away from that bid and not interrupt what we were doing. Every time we turn toward Jesus’ bids we grow, and every time we turn away we distance our hearts from His request to connect! Would you say in your day-to-day walk with God you have the 9/10 “turn toward” response that’s proven to grow a relationship? I know there are countless days when I fully ignore God or have closer to the 3/10 “turn toward” responses. One thing I’ve come to realize is Jesus’ bids for connection are often at inconvenient times when I’m on my way to do something else – just as Jesus was often interrupted on his journeys to different places.
I’d venture to say that Jesus is constantly using the things in our day as bids for connection! Some are happy moments like seeing a gorgeous sunrise, or an amazing tree, or meeting a new friend, where He’s inviting us to scan the environment for a moment to turn toward Him and say thank you! Some bids are in the frustrations of the day like getting stuck in traffic or spilling coffee on your computer, where He’s inviting us to rest in Him and surrender our frustrations.
One of my memorable God interruptions happened in 2015 when I had just moved to Japan for my first job and was fully alone for the first time. I was two months out of college, three weeks into being 22, and was now 4,784 miles away from home sitting in a Tokyo apartment where I would live for two weeks before moving into my new place. Sitting on my bed, I felt extremely small and scared. I was in a country I had never been to, living in the world’s biggest city, with no return ticket! I knew zero Japanese and was painfully aware that if I needed help I would have no one to turn to but God. As the hours ticked by my fear grew more and more, I started thinking about all the worst-case scenarios and researching what to do in an earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami etc. I had fully let fear run the show! At about 12:30 A.M. I felt the Holy Spirit say, “You should take a walk!”
There’s absolutely no way that was God! I thought.
It was almost 1 A.M. I was already in my PJs, why on earth would God tell me to go for a walk? I’m a young, foreign woman ALONE in a new city with worse language skills than a local infant, there’s no way God would ask me to do something so “unwise” I convinced myself. About 15 min later He repeated:
“Kindsi, you need to go on a walk NOW!” This time, the words shook me to my core!
“Fine, I’ll change clothes, put on shoes and take the 15-minute walk to my train station, fill my train card and come home,” I replied out loud to my empty room.
I still wasn’t sure if this prompting was God, but I was alone, I had no one to answer to, even if it wasn’t Jesus speaking, what did I have to lose? The second I stepped outside the same voice in my mind said,
“There’s someone you need to talk to!”
Now I KNOW this can’t be God! I thought, Who could I possibly talk to when I speak zero Japanese?
About halfway to the station, I see a foreign guy standing outside a convenience store.
NO WAY! I thought as I got closer, That’s Kaleb. I KNOW HIM!!
I re-introduced myself to Kaleb, as he was one of the speakers at our orientation the previous week and he spells his name the same as my brother. He told me he had been waiting to meet up with his friends for about 30-40 minutes but they hadn’t shown up (sorry dude – I was fighting with God about my walk for 30 minutes haha) I told him some of my moving fears and frustrations and he gave me his number and offered to fill out all of my Japanese paperwork for shipping my luggage, and invited me to dinner with his friends and co-workers the next day – who all happened to be Japanese government officials.
I walked away from that conversation absolutely floored by how present Jesus was with me in my new home. Being interrupted by His spirit at one o’clock in the morning led me to someone who could help Tokyo feel a little less big and scary. Not only did Kaleb have the same name as my brother, but Caleb in the Bible was one of two soldiers who returned from the promised land full of faith that God would give the Israelites victory over the giants that the other 10 soldiers reported couldn’t be overcome.
By interrupting my night, Jesus rolled out a huge God-sized welcome mat for me to walk into the season of promise that He had ready for my time in Japan! I spent the rest of that walk home turning toward God with gratitude for the way He showed up and spoke to exactly what my heart needed.
I encourage you to interrupt your day today and let God speak to you. Maybe this is taking a moment to turn towards God and scan your environment for something to say thank you for. Maybe it’s spending the extra time and effort to show love to someone you see in public or doing something kind for someone you live with. No matter how inconvenient the interruptions may seem, God interrupts us as an opportunity to turn our hearts towards Him and deepen our relationships with others!
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