Have you ever made a list of things to get done, but then became distracted before you could complete them? Interruptions and distractions are a universal component of the human experience. Like most jobs, ministry can be full of distractions. It is in those moments when there are sermons to write, Bible studies to prepare, bulletins to create, and patients to visit in the hospital that there will be a knock at your office door. While it is easy to see these moments as distractions, they are often opportunities to have deeper conversations that simply are not possible when passing someone in the hall after Sunday school. These “interruptions” are often where real ministry takes place.
It was Jesus who changed the way I viewed the distractions and interruptions in life. Jesus’ example has a way of doing that doesn’t it? In Mark 5:21-43 Jesus heals a woman with a chronic hemorrhage, as well as Jairus’s daughter. I have known the story well, but my familiarity with the story has tended to focus on the miracles, and to a large extent ignored Jesus’ interactions with the people involved. Knowing Jesus’ power to perform miracles can build faith, but studying how Jesus’ interacted with the subjects of his miracles is what helps us become better disciples. To be honest, this is what I had always missed in this passage. I had never noticed how Jesus deals with interruptions.
The first of two noticeable differences between Jesus’ way of dealing with interruptions and my own is that Jesus gives of his time, without hesitation. As Jesus is on his way to see Jairus’s daughter, who is gravely ill, a woman who has suffered for year after year with a chronic hemorrhage touches his garment. He feels the power leave him as she receives the gift of healing that she sought for what seemed like an eternity. The woman is healed, so Jesus could proceed to Jairus’s house to address the matter at hand. But he doesn’t. He turns his attention to the woman and begins a dialogue with her. Doesn’t Jesus understand that there is no time to lose? Why talk to a woman who has already been healed, when there is someone else who is in dire need of Jesus’ miraculous gift? Despite the pressing need for his presence elsewhere, Jesus refuses to deny his presence to the one standing in front of him.
This leads us to the second discernable difference between Jesus’ way and my own. Jesus tarries with the woman because of how he views her. He doesn’t see her as a distraction, and her needs are not an interruption. Jesus gives of his time, after he has given of his power, because he sees the woman as a daughter. Just as Jairus is anxious because of his own daughter’s illness, Jesus is concerned for this woman who has endured so much. God has taught me over the last several years that I don’t have a job to do; I have people to serve. Jobs come with checklists of tasks and responsibilities, but a life lived serving others comes with opportunities to love. Those opportunities might not come when it is convenient, but that did not stop Jesus from seizing them, and it should not stop us.
I hope I have not implied that I have mastered the Jesus approach to dealing with the distractions and interruptions in life. The worry that I still feel when something derails my plans for the day betrays my need for a lot more growth in this area. I need a deeper faith. However, in those moments when the anxiety is setting in, I can often hear echoing in my mind these words of Henri Nouwen: “You know…my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” 
Guide us, Lord, until we learn to see interruptions as opportunities, and understand that the most important work of all isn’t always on our schedule.
 Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, 36.
Header image: Turner, Lindsey. Now that’s a schedule! January 6, 2009. Retrieved from flickr.com. Some rights reserved. Saturation and tone adjusted by Karissa Herchenroeder for use on CHARIS.