She hadn’t been listening to a word I’d said.
While sharing one of my grandchildren’s most recent accomplishments, my friend interjected at my first pause to tell her own grandchild story. Exploding from her vocal chords with the force of an Olympic sprinter, her narrative morphed into a marathon. My story never got close to the finish line.
I know how it happened. I’ve been on the other side more often than I care to admit. I “listen” as a friend shares her story, and at the first opportunity I interject my own. It’s justifiable, I tell myself, since my story is more informative, more interesting, or more entertaining. She’ll learn something from what I have to say. It’s for her own good, I reason as I interrupt.
I’ve learned about being interrupted lately.
Several months ago I began writing the messages I would share at a Women’s Conference in South Africa. This was an answer to one of my biggest prayers ever, so I wanted to give as much time and attention to these messages as possible. I don’t have much spare time, so important things have to be included in my morning routine.
I get up early. I have my quiet time. I write. I address the important things of the day. I do some housework. I get myself ready and leave for my job.
The writing time of my morning routine was to have been devoted to preparing the messages for the “Freedom Conference” in South Africa. If I began writing six or seven months before the conference I should have time to finish the four messages with plenty of time left over to tweak and polish.
Not so. God had the audacity to keep interrupting me.
First, He led me into a time of self-examination and consecration to prepare for this mission trip and the conferences. Later, He had our mission team work through a 40-day prayer time together. In between He continued to allow all sort of interruptions to my morning writing time. No matter how much I prayed for Him to remove the interruptions, they still came wave after wave.
In the blink of an eye it was the week of the conferences. Then, it was the day before we were to catch our flight for South Africa. My messages remained unfinished. I could salvage this, I told myself. The travel time to our destination was 26 hours. Surely I could finish my messages on the plane or during a layover.
Not so. God had the audacity to keep interrupting me.
Standing in line for customs after arriving at Cape Town International Airport I could only muster the mental energy for one thought. One question.
Now what, God? Now that You’ve allowed dozens of things to interrupt what I’ve needed to do in my attempt to be obedient… now what am I supposed to do?
The line moved forward and I hoisted my backpack while dragging my luggage towards the customs booths. That backpack. It quite literally had been a pain in my neck for the whole trip. But, according to everything I had read in preparing for the long trip, I needed it and all its contents. Every time I had to move it, however, all I could think of was one Bible verse.
… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles . And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
I wanted to throw off that backpack. Ever since leaving Memphis International Airport two days earlier I had wanted to toss it as far as I could. It had hindered my progress. It had entangled my arms and legs. My perseverance was gone and my running had turned to dragging about 16 hours earlier.
“Now what, God?” I silently asked again, just in case He hadn’t been paying attention the last time I shook my fist toward Him in my minds eye. Pouting in the back seat of the van as we were driven to our destination, my thoughts settled enough that I could hear God say, “Now you’ve got it. Now you can finish.”
The backpack. That was it. The central, visual focal point of the first message I would bring. But, what do backpacks and freedom have in common? Plenty, as God would go on to show me. (Watch for a future post on that)
My first message was to be delivered less than 48 hours after we touched down in Cape Town and I would have no time to work on it this first night. As it turned out, I would have no time to finish it until about 3 hours before I took my place to present it. Looking back I can see why God didn’t allow me to finish my messages this side of the Atlantic Ocean. He hadn’t finished giving me the material for them. I’d thought I had everything I needed for my neatly crafted four-part series of this conference.
Not so. God had to be audacious and keep interrupting me.
Part Two of my four-part series wasn’t finished until hours before it was presented. Part Three was only completed minutes before I took the podium. Part Four was no exception. All because God kept interrupting me. Or, shall I say, He kept interrupting my plans, my thoughts, and my ways.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55:8
My ways. God’s ways.
My thoughts. God’s thoughts.
My plans. God’s plans.
‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
If God doesn’t interrupt mine, often mine will override His.
One year ago my plans did not include traveling to the other side of the world to share His message of freedom. One year ago my plans included pursuing a writing career. One year ago I wrote my last post to this blog, then I took a break from blog writing because I knew God was calling me to do that. I didn’t know what He was calling me to do, but I knew He was calling me to stop and to spend time listening. What I had thought would be a 30-day, or perhaps even a 60-day hiatus in writing posts for this site eventually turned into one year. Ironically, my last post to this site on August 19, 2015, was titled “What if God asked you for a favor?
Did He ever ask me for a favor!
He asked me to put aside my plans and to wait for Him.
He asked me to go to a place I had never been and do something I had never done.
He asked me to go on a mission trip to South Africa, knowing full well that I had never even wanted to go on a mission trip.
God interrupted my plans for my life. When I tried to make my own plans of His plans, He interrupted again. And He interrupted every time I tried to tailor His plans to my own. He took me out of my comfort zone into a time zone 7 hours ahead of mine. He took me away from the people I knew. He took me away from the schedule I held fast to. He removed me from anything and anyone I could possibly rely on, except for Himself.
He taught me to be interruptable.
He taught me to rely on Him, not just for the big picture, but daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. It was terrifying. It was explosive. The results were jaw-dropping. But, I’m a slow learner, and I know He’s still teaching me. He’s not just teaching me to be interruptable. He’s teaching me to live a life that’s interruptable. He challenges me to make this my prayer mantra:
Interrupt my life, God.
Because you see, it wasn’t about my story that I wanted to present in those conference sessions… it was about God’s story.
My story of my grandchild never crossed the finish line after my friend’s interruption, and I resented the interruption. I didn’t accomplish what I had intended. God’s story did cross the finish line in a race He asked me to run in South Africa. Because I allowed Him to interrupt my life, and because of His promises to me, I know He will accomplish what He intended.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ Isaiah 55:8-11