Monday afternoon, Elizabeth seemed listless. Being the only girl in a world of brothers, she can be prone to a bit of drama. When she came up to me and mentioned that her eyes hurt, I chalked it up to an attempt to get out of whatever task she was in the midst of completing. She walked off and the momma voice inside me gave me a little push. Her eyes sting. She is listless. Hmmm... I called her back and planted a kiss on her little forehead. She was burning up. That momma voice is a strong thing.
Since Monday, my own plans have been on hold. I have been home with a warm little preschooler on or near me all day long. My energetic girl has begged for sleep and napped for hours on end. She is frustrated and looks to me to help her settle. The days have been long and I find myself taking a lot of deep breaths in hopes that I might dig a little deeper and find one more bit of patience. Her illness has been an interruption this week... an unintended, unplanned experience that has taken our days in a whole new direction.
When we worked at Trinity Christian College, we lived with 250 freshman and sophomore college students. As they explored their life away from home, there were many knocks on the door to process whatever new lesson had popped into their young lives. There is no planning for that kind of learning. There were students at our door early in the morning and late at night. There were students at our door during dinner, while nursing babies, during our favorite TV shoes, while we argued... all the time. We would answer the door, set aside our busy life, and sit down with the student before us. It may sound crazy to you... and truth be told, it was an unusual life... but it was a wonderful way to live alife that is fully immersed in ministry. That said, there were times though when we WANTED to watch that program, when we were HUNGRY for the warm supper on the table, when the argument needed to find completion. Then, that interruption could be a little bit harder to take. Our attitude could get in the way.
In a meeting one afternoon, my colleague Bryan gave us a new way of looking at it all.
"Interruptions ARE our ministry." Bryan simply stated.
And then it was clear. Each knock on the door was an opportunity for us to extend God's love to people who were struggling to make sense of the world before them. Each lanky, jean-clad 18 year-old that landed on our comfy couch was a dearly loved child of God. They were the reason we were there. We needed to set any hint of frustration or attitude aside and instead see our work as important in building God's kingdom in that little corner of creation.
Look around you. Do you see the amazing work you have been called to do? Somewhere (likely within earshot), is a child who was given to you, entrusted to you. The job is long and hard and full of unplanned moments. Our to-do lists are often interrupted; as are our TV shows, our attempts at cooking, our trips to the store, our endless chores, even our time in the bathroom! But, interruptions ARE our ministry. This is no less true for our work as parents than it was for my work on a college campus. In fact, it may be more so! It is in those moments of interruption that we can extend a bit of grace to our little ones. It is in those unplanned disruptions that we may find chances to show the long, deep, wide, unending love of Christ to our children. Our frustration may rise. Our attitudes may rear up. But, the choice is there if we will just take the time to choose.
My daughter has been sick since Monday afternoon and I am tired. Today, it may seem endless but I know all too well that in the blink of an eye, she will be 16 and I will see less of her sweet face and more of the back of her head as she runs full on into the world awaiting her. So, today I will take the interruption and read another book and watch WordWorld and find still and quiet ways to help her through this difficult time. I will pour more juice, find the Tylenol and take a deep breath as she climbs on me one more time. I will do it today because tomorrow will come soon enough. Today, this is my work. Today, this is my ministry. And simple as it is, there is nothing more important to do.
This illness may be an unplanned event in her week and in mine, but it is a good reminder to me. Interruptions are my ministry. And yours as well. It is a blessing in disguise and one I want to see and honor and embrace.