Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped… and said, “Call him here.” Mark 10:46

Have you ever wanted to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your desk or on your life?” Imagine that you are engrossed in a writing project. The words are flowing, and right in the middle of a good thought… someone comes by your desk and interrupts your work…and breaks your concentration! How do you respond? Or you are getting ready to leave the house for an important engagement, and your daughter or son needs to discuss something that seems VERY important to them and… your plans are interrupted! How do you deal with interruptions? And…can we be honest enough to admit that some interruptions are more than simply annoying…they are poignant. For example…countless families, have had their lives totally interrupted by two words… “It’s malignant.”

Today, God has a special word for us… an interruption can be an invitation to a deeper walk with God. The etymology of the word interruption is instructive. Inter-rumpere (in Latin) literally means “to break into.” The Latin dis-rumpere, literally means “to break apart.” An interruption occurs when something or someone breaks into our life. An interruption can be an opportunity for God to break into our lives. If we let God into the interruption, that moment can actually be life-changing for us and for another person. If, however, we don’t see the interruption as an opportunity for service, that interruption can break us apart! It becomes a disruption. So instead of being angry saying, “Why was my life interrupted?” … what if we were to ask, “What is God saying to me through this interruption? What does God want me to do with this interruption? Is this an opportunity to serve God?” The answer to these questions might change our perspective.

There are two principles we must remember if we are going to change our perspective on interruptions:

1) There is a God-ordained time in life not to be interrupted. I know a surgeon who loves performing surgery because, as he has told me many times, “Surgery is the one time in my life when I can’t be interrupted. There is nothing more important than surgery!” Jesus regarded time with God as seriously as that Doctor regards surgery. The Bible tells us that Jesus rose early in the morning and went to a private place, as was his custom, and he prayed. The disciples realized that this was his power source. Prayer was his time, early in the morning, to get in tune with God. Technology has made it almost impossible for us to be unavailable. But, what if we turned off our iPhone for 15 minutes…and had focused…uninterrupted time to listen to the God of the universe? It might change our perspective on interruptions.

2) Interruptions are not obstacles to be avoided, but opportunities for service. Jesus outer life in service grew out of his inner life with God. That is why he was able to allow himself to be interrupted by Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, in today’s scripture. If you think about it, Jesus was constantly being interrupted… by Zacchaeus who was up a tree, by the woman at the well… by children who wanted to see him… by sick people who wanted to touch the hem of his garment. Jesus was attentive to the people around him, and allowed himself to be interrupted. What if we opened our eyes to the possibilities for service inherent in an interruption? Maybe the person who stops by our desk, or our child needed to speak with us because they needed a listening ear in the midst of a challenging time. Maybe that interruption is really an opportunity for service.

A Scottish farmer named Fleming viewed his interruptions as opportunities for service. Fleming was a poor Scottish farmer who was working the land when he heard cries for help from a nearby bog. Running to the bog, he found a boy sinking down into the muck with no possible way to get out. Mr. Fleming threw the boy a rope, and saved his life as he was drowning. Farmer Fleming gave the boy a new set of clothing and sent him on his way without getting his name.

A few days later, a fancy carriage pulled up to Fleming’s farm. A nobleman got out and thanked Fleming for saving his son’s life in the bog. The nobleman wanted to pay Fleming for his gesture of kindness but the farmer would not take any money. Fleming’s son came to the door as his father was talking to the nobleman. “Is this your son?” asked the nobleman. Fleming replied “yes.” The nobleman said, “Why don’t you let me take your son and educate him? I have a feeling this boy could turn out to be something great… if he’s anything like his father!”

Fleming entrusted his son to the care of the nobleman, and some years later his son, Alexander Fleming, graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, England. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. But the story doesn’t end there. The nobleman’s son got pneumonia and became quite ill. Dr. Fleming’s penicillin saved the nobleman’s son’s life! By the way… the name of the nobleman was Lord Randolph Churchill and his son was… Sir Winston Churchill!

Wouldn’t it have been a loss for the world if Farmer Fleming had not responded to that interruption? The world might not have had penicillin…or Winston Churchill! Remember… an interruption is an opportunity for service.

Reflection Questions

  • Can you think of a time in your recent past when an interruption irritated you and you wish you had a Do Not Disturb sign on your desk?
  • Can you think of a time in your recent past when you viewed an interruption as an opportunity?
  • What do you think made the difference in your perspective? What role did God play?