See Interruptions as Gods works for us by Elisabeth Elliot
We are trained to set goals for our projects. Milestone dates. Keep to schedule. Finish on time. And when we are interrupted during our projects we get frustrated, irritated, flabbergasted! Even angry!!!
Unfortunately, we carry this competitive attitude back to our home environment. When our children or our spouse interrupts us in our report writings on the computer, we get angry. We shout. We blast. We do not tolerate interruptions. We want to finish our work according to schedule. We bully our family to comply with our will through our hot temper.
In today’s world, how should we respond when we are interrupted during our e-mailing, chatting, SMSing, gaming, reading, watching TV or whatever we are interested in doing? Do we just give a perfunctory reply? Ignore? 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? Should we even stop to think about this?
Recently, I saw a family waiting for their dinner to be served in a restaurant. The father and mother were on their cell phones talking, their teen daughter was SMSing, the younger son playing Game-boy and the toddler watching a cartoon on a portable 6 inch DVD Player. Every one was so busy. No interruption. No talk. No communication. No family bonding. What are the parents signaling to their children? Is that how family relationships start to break-down? What would happen when the daughter has some emotional problem? Who will she turn to? Her parents or her equally blur peers?
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 and to be more useful to my spouse and children. He wants me to be more available to help them when they come with their minor problems.
God wants to get through to us and one way is by interruptions. 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. If only we can see with our spiritual eyes that the interruptions are His way to seek an entrance to our heart. It will then provide the balance needed for making sure that family relationship comes first. We have a great responsibility to foster a happy family and an alternative view towards interruptions can help to lessen the stresses in the family.
Of course, we can tell the family ahead about the occasions we must not be interrupted.
Henri Nouwen in his book, Turn My Mourning into Dancing, says, “I remember an old priest who one day said to me, ‘I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted; then I realised that the interruptions were my work.’” (11)
It is also interesting to see what Annie Beary and Elisabeth Elliot say about interruptions below.
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Keep a Quiet Heart” It was published in 1995.
Do Not Rush, Trust, and Keep a Quiet Heart (9)
I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself asdiscipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work—one’s work for God—consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day—the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.
Annie Beary, 1825-1879
Interruptions, Delays Inconveniences (139-140)
Emily, wife of America’s first foreign missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote home from Moulmein, Burma, in January 1847: “This taking care of teething babies, and teaching natives to darn stockings and talking English back end foremost … in order to get an eatable dinner, is really a very odd sort of business for Fanny Forester [her penname—she was a well-known New England writer before marrying Judson]…. But I begin to get reconciled to my minute cares.” She was ambitious for “higher and better things,” but was enabled to learn that “the person who would do great things well must practice daily on little ones; and she who would have the assistance of the Almighty in important acts, must be daily and hourly accustomed to consult His will in the minor affairs of life.”
About eighty years ago, when James O. Fraser was working as a solitary missionary in Tengyueh, southwest China, his situation was, “in every sense, ‘against the grain,”‘ He did not enjoy housekeeping and looking after premises. He found the houseboy irritable and touchy, constantly quarreling with the cook. Endless small items of business cluttered up the time he wanted for language study, and he was having to learn to be “perpetually inconvenienced” for the sake of the gospel. He wrote after some weeks alone:
I am finding out that it is a mistake to plan to get through a certain amount of work in a certain time. It ends in disappointment, besides not being the right way to go about it, in my judgment. It makes one impatient of interruptions and delay. Just as you are nearly finishing—somebody comes along to sit with you and have a chat! You might hardly think it possible to be impatient and put out where there is such an opportunity for presenting the Gospel—but it is. It may be just on mealtime, or you are writing a letter to catch the mail, or you were just going out for needed exercise before tea. But the visitor has to be welcomed, and I think it is well to cultivate an attitude of mind which will enable one to welcome him from the heart and at any time. “No admittance except on business” scarcely shows a true missionary spirit.
There is nothing like the biographies of great Christians to give us perspective and help us to keep spiritual balance. These two are well worth reading. It was J.O. Fraser who so inspired my husband Jim Elliot with missionary vision that Jim planned to name his first son after him.
One more quotation—this from an out-of-print book, The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart. Says one who was her assistant for some years, “She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it.”