Maybe it’s the nature of a writer, requiring intense concentration to properly tackle the task at hand – whether it be an article, a book, or even an email. But when I’m “in the zone,” anything that interrupts my train of thought can be as disconcerting as having your car bumped from behind while sitting at a traffic light.
If my wife walks into my office to ask a question, or the grandkids stop by unexpectedly, I’m torn. I want to spend time with them, but there’s this “train” chugging along in my mind and I dare not let it get derailed.
I used to think I was alone in this, that it was just inherent selfishness and preoccupation with literary mission that caused me to often regard disruptions as inconveniences, rather than pleasant surprises. Then I read an entry in Philip Yancey’s excellent devotional book, Grace Notes, that confirmed this inclination isn’t unique to me.
Yancey wrote, “I tend to approach life as a sequence rather than as a series of moments. I schedule my time, set goals, and march onward toward their achievement. Phone calls, or any unscheduled event, I view as a jarring interruption. How different from the style of Jesus, who often let other people – interruptions – determine his daily schedule.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a writer to feel this way. All kinds of people feel annoyed when someone breaks their concentration. Heck, lots of folks hate being disturbed while watching TV, reading a book, or playing a video game on their smartphone.
Contrast that, as did Yancey, to “the style of Jesus,” whom we often see having His plans disrupted by individuals and by crowds. And without complaining at all.
We see this early in each of the gospel accounts of His life. Matthew 4:24 tells us, “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyze, and he healed them. Large crowd…followed him.”
Mark 1:40-41 recounts when “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean. Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.”
In neither case, or in the many other similar “unscheduled” encounters Jesus had during His earthly ministry, did He said, “Oh, man! What’s up with these people? Don’t they know I’m busy, that I’ve got more pressing things to do?” No, because as Yancey wrote, that wasn’t Jesus’ “style.” He perfectly mastered the distinction between the important and the merely urgent.
Sometimes I wonder how many opportunities I’ve ignored or missed out on, simply because I wasn’t willing to let others impose on or even reset my agenda for the moment. The Scriptures talk about “redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). In other words, unlike money or other material possessions, we can’t acquire more of it. Once time is gone, it’s gone, never to be redeemed.
The refrain from the old hit song, recorded by Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and many others, comes to mind: “Ain’t it funny how time slips away.”
Speaking of which, a couple of our grandkids just arrived for a visit. Guess this would be a good time to take a break. See ya later!