A colleague arrived at work disappointed that she’d left home early to be on time for our staff prayer meeting but had been delayed by an accident in traffic. I thought to myself that although she had missed the prayer meeting, she had been perfectly placed to pray for those whose ordinary morning commute had taken an unexpected traumatic turn. Easy for me to reflect in hindsight from a place of comfort and ease, but can I roll with the grace that offers itself in moments of interruption and the disruption of my best-laid plans and envisaged schedules?
In a recent spirituality class, a student mused on the capacity of Jesus, during pressing demands and interruptions, to maintain a posture of calm and opportunistic response. My mind went immediately to the story of Jairus in Mark’s gospel (5:21-43). A panicked and desperate father pleads with Jesus to intervene as his young daughter hovers in the stage between life and death. Crowds are pressing in; a large entourage follows and then … During the heat, the publicity, the urgency, Jesus stops. He pauses to acknowledge the desperately shy and anonymous touch of one woman in the crowd, a long-term sufferer of menstrual haemorrhage, a shameful and debilitating affliction. His disciples urge him to press on, they feel the fear of potential delay and public failure. But Jesus recognises the moment. The opportunity to see the whole person. To look into her eyes, to affirm her faith, to restore personal dignity, as well as bring physical relief.
To roll with interruptions, to find grace in delays, calls for an understanding of a different economy of productivity, or more aptly, fruitfulness. It’s a less-is-more mystery. It is grounded in the gift of faith. The ability of the soul to know and believe that the potential of the interruption offers opportunity more than loss. And that somehow, the original plans will also find their fulfilment in the broader scope of space and time (Jesus arrives too late to save the child but just in time for the more profound work of resuscitation from death).
The grace of interrupted and frustrated plans is hidden. It is the treasure buried within the field. It unfolds in a similar way to the mystery of feeding 5,000 with a few small loaves and fishes. It calls us to a posture of detachment (from fixed agendas), discernment, light-heartedness, trust, and mindful presence to the current moment, a sense of playfulness and joy. These are the marks of participation in the ministry of Christ. The good news is that life as it is, in contrast to the life that we perfectly plan inside our heads, will perpetually offer us regular opportunity to practice the art of transforming interruption into opportunity.