“Henry is on the phone. Who has a minute to pray with him?”
Henry was a frequent caller. Boundary setting had been done with Henry to limit his calling to just once a week. He was not a fully mentally healthy individual--his anxiety was debilitating. He fixated on various things and had rituals of what he wanted prayed over him--the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm were frequently requested. Some weeks he wanted to repeat your words and pray those same lines. He often asked for prayers for clarity and for good thoughts. At times, Harry’s frequent phone calls felt like an interruption into the busy work day. The team had content to prepare, emails to send, editing to happen, and calls to return. We were a normal busy office trying to get ministry work accomplished. But Henry’s unsolicited phone call was also ministry.
The Bible is full of stories about Jesus being interrupted. So many stories of miracles share the line ”while they were…” While they were heading to this place, a crazy thing happened. While walking here or going there, something extraordinary happened. “As they went here” or “while he was teaching” they were interrupted by this person and that person looking for healing and wanting attention.
Luke 8: 42-44 recounts, “As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.”
While they were traveling from one place to another, they were interrupted. Jesus could have rushed past this woman as he followed the itinerary, but he stopped and acknowledges this woman’s faith. He assured her that her struggles matter to God. Jesus stopped and took advantage of the moment to get personal and make connections. Jesus helped the crowd to see his divine power and importance of faith.
This story is only one of many accounts that we read about in the life of Jesus. He often takes advantage of the little in-between moments to remind people that they are loved by God. In these unrehearsed moments between here and there, God is at work. We are blessed with examples of Jesus spending time dwelling with people and stepping into the messiness of their lives. He is our incarnational God who came to earth for us.
What events feel like interruptions to your regularly scheduled day? A child who derails the schedule with all of their needs? A call from a church member with a last-minute emergency? A friend who show up in tears at just the wrong time? An emergent call that messes up the dinner hour? How might God be showing up through these events and interrupting your regularly scheduled programming? How might God be calling you to stop your busyness and see the ministry opportunity before you?
When an interruption happens, take a pause and look for where God is at work. It is in these challenging moments that we are blessed with opportunities to point to Jesus. Maybe you can join in with a wondering toddler and invite him to see his Creator. Maybe in helping out a friend you remind them that God has knit us together as a family. Maybe in showing respect and dignity to someone in need you help them recognize that they are loved by God and made in his image. Look for the opportunity in those frustrating interruptions to be ushered into the presence of God.
In the busyness of our work in a ministry office we sometimes lose sight of all the real people who read our materials and find encouragement from the good news of the gospel that we share. Henry reminded us all that people were finding encouragement in our ministry. The noise of our office would become hushed as someone picked up the phone and chatted with Henry. Over our quiet typing you could hear calming words and love being spoken over him. All of the normal office chatter would quiet for the few moments while someone would pray Henry through the things that he needed to hear that day.
At times Henry was viewed as an interruption, but I think that he served as a reminder from God to slow down and take refuge in these words of comfort. He helped us to see that there were real people outside our offices who needed to hear the message of comfort and hope from God’s word. He reminded us of the work that God is up to in the in-between things that feel like interruptions. In our rush to do important ministry we were quieted for those moments and reminded of all the ways that God makes himself known. God speaks through the comforting words of a quiet prayer reciting familiar words to an anxious old man. God is at work in the in-between/ on the way moments, soothing a busy office with reminders of his faithfulness.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster