So Jesus was striding down the street one day when a kid in front of him turned around and asked for a bus ticket. Jesus had noticed the boy—a skinny teenager wearing a too-big T-shirt—aimlessly tapping a stick on a nearby fence. Jesus had wondered why the boy wasn’t in school, and if he was waiting for an adult doing business at the auto shop or picking up a coffee at the Tim’s. Still, he was surprised when the boy spoke to him, interrupting his musing and asking for help. How did Jesus respond? What would Jesus do?
Of course, it wasn’t Jesus walking down the street. It was me. But the question remains: what would Jesus do? We are often confronted with interruptions; sometimes they’re requests for help, like the pleas I hear for bus tickets or spare change. Or it may be the child who asks us to read, the lonely family member who wants to talk, or the troubled stranger who seeks our succor to ease their suffering.
There is the dilemma about what is the most helpful response. Does a bit of cash enable addictive behavior? Does the bus ticket take the boy further away from his immediate responsibilities or his network of support? No easy answers to those questions. I did slow my stride long enough to look in the boy’s eyes, and to reply that no, I did not have a bus ticket, before I sailed away, carrying with me a slight and familiar whiff of guilt that my response had been inadequate.
Jesus isn’t walking beside me on the street telling me what to do. But Jesus’ teachings of the past are available to me through the gospels, and the ever-present spirit of the living Jesus is at work guiding and directing me. I’m pretty sure it was the spirit that offered me a new lens that day by which to view such encounters. This is the flash of awareness I received: interruptions are opportunities! I’m pretty sure I heard this before, probably even read it in a book somewhere. But that day I got it.
In my purpose-driven life, I am often striding vigorously toward a goal (literally as I often do on sidewalks or paths, or figuratively in other ways). The interruptions are irritations throwing me off my path and delaying my progress. What would Jesus do with such interruptions?
There are plenty of stories that answer that question. There was the centurion who came asking for healing of his paralyzed servant (Matthew 8). There were the ten lepers who called out for mercy as Jesus came near their village (Luke 17). And the memorable encounter with the bleeding woman who sought Jesus’ help by simply touching the fringe of his cloak (Matthew 9). Interruptions all. He looked people in the eye, listened to their deep questions, sometimes saying yes to their request, sometimes not, but always offering God’s love. Jesus’ response was driven by his mission, by his firm grasp on the work God had sent him to do. Might we too see interruptions as opportunities to join in God’s mission?
While I had no bus ticket to offer the boy, did I not have other things to offer? If my mission is to help people develop healthy, vibrant relationships with God, self and others (as stated in the by-line), aren’t these unplanned-for encounters opportunities to enact my part in God’s mission? Isn’t each day filled with such moments in which one can joyfully live out the work God calls us to do (whether or not it’s on the to-do list)?
Melissa Miller (email@example.com) has a passion for helping people develop healthy, vibrant relationships with God, self and others.