Interruptions

I recall the day in 1986 when I told my twelve-year-old daughter and my ten-year-old son that I was pregnant.  I will never forget the expression on their adolescent faces. 

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Both of them looked absolutely stunned.  My son eventually managed a smile and said “Cool!”  My daughter, however, began to cry—no, she wept.  As she wept, she wailed, “But I like things the way they are!  I don’t want them to change!”  Thank God that her heart was soon converted and she eagerly welcomed her new baby brother into our household.

As I recall the day that I shared the news of my pregnancy with my children, it is not difficult to remember my own reaction to the same news a few months earlier when I was being treated in a hospital emergency room for what I thought was another episode in my history of cardiac arrhythmias.  On that day, I was informed by the doctor that my symptoms were not caused by cardiac problems — I was pregnant.  “But my youngest child is ten years old,” I protested.  As I slowly walked out of the hospital that day, my mind in a virtual fog, I was just beginning to grasp the magnitude of the “interruption” that God had ordained for me and my family.  Indeed, our lives would never be the same.  The pregnancy was considered high risk because of my age and health issues but God used this blessed event to launch my family on a journey that would not only irreversibly alter our family size but ultimately deepen our faith and increase our capacity to love.

According to M. Craig Barnes, author of When God Interrupts: Finding New Life Through Unwanted Change, the event of my pregnancy with my third (and last) child was much more than a matter of biology.  It was a God-ordained opportunity for personal and family conversion.  The event required each member of the family to turn away from his/her ideas and expectations about his/her future and to turn toward the creative work of God in his/her life.  For some family members, such as my daughter, the event meant going to places that they did not want to go.

Conversion, Barnes asserts, is always God’s idea.  God initiates it.  I agree.  I often like to quote the saying that God loves us just the way that we are but he loves us too much to leave us the way that we are.  He is determined to save us.  Not just for heaven but from ourselves, particularly from our “well-ordered” lives that require so much effort to maintain that we forget our created purpose.

Barnes states, “The challenge to people of faith is to learn how to follow.  Central to that task is giving up the expectation of knowing where we are going.”  All we need to know is that we are going to “Jerusalem.”  Typically, Jerusalem is the place where we do not want to go because it is a place of uncertainty.  When I was seeking clarity about my call to ministry, I read from John 12:26: “If any man serve me, let him follow me: and where I am, there shall also my servant be…”  Through this scripture, I heard the Holy Spirit saying to me that to follow Jesus simply means to be where Jesus is.  I do not need to know where we are going.  If I am to be his servant, I just need to make sure that I am in close proximity to him wherever he is.

I smiled when I read Barnes’ statement that we all want God to call us— we just want to pick the place and the people.  But following God is not a matter of entering into a democratic arrangement between two equal parties.  We do not get to vote on where we go, when he calls, or how he intervenes in our lives.  We do get to decide whether we love him; this decision, according to Barnes, is at the heart of our willingness or resistance to abandon our lives.

It is hard to kick against the pricks.  Similar to the baby who struggles and struggles against sleep even though sleep is exactly what is most needed, we struggle against God’s call for us to abandon our dreams for personal success…our consumerism…our plans for our families, the world, and the church…and our illusions about the future.  However, abandoning these things is what we most need to do.  It is as if, similar to the sleepy baby, we are afraid that we are going to miss experiencing something if we let go and give in to the one who knows us best.  God, however, will not be resisted.  He will continue to interrupt our lives as often as he deems necessary until we abandon our false saviors and cling to him alone.

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