The Importance of Interruptions

The Importance of Interruptions

The Importance of Interruptions

Allowing ourselves to be interrupted

“I try never to be too busy to be interrupted, because it seems the most interesting things happen during interruptions” (Tony Morling at Host 2017)

So many of Jesus’ interactions that are recorded in the gospels did not happen because they were planned but as interruptions to what was already going on – a man with a sick daughter turns up when Jesus is teaching, and the girl is raised from the dead; a woman touches his cloak as he is walking to the man’s house, and her chronic haemorrhaging stops and she is socially restored; a crowd of 5000 turn up in a solitary place, and get miraculously fed with bread and fish and teaching.

Are we missing the most important interactions because we are too busy to be interrupted by the unplanned and unexpected?

Deliberately interrupting others

“Interruption of business as usual by presenting oneself —one’s actual physical presence —in vulnerability, to the other.”  (David Benjamin Blower in ‘Sympathy for Jonah’)

In Blower’s words, Jesus continually “very purposefully deconstructs social boundaries by making himself present to the other … “because he perceives these invisible boundaries of unspoken enmity to be the constructs of a damaged and oppressive order” – Jesus places himself where he knows he will meet a person he is separated from by nationality and gender; he goes to dinner with people that no-one else wanted to be associated with; he touches lepers who were supposed to keep their distance.

Jesus simply sat by a well; accepted an invitation to dinner; reached out a hand.  For the prophet Jonah before him, it was simply appearing as a fish out of water in a city he didn’t belong and uttering 8 words: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4).  For Moses, it was simply turning up before Pharaoh and relaying the message: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Exodus 9:1)

These kinds of interruption are needed to allow space for something new to happen.

Deliberately interrupting ourselves

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

In his ‘The Importance of Boredom‘ podcast, Rob Bell highlights the need for allowing pauses rather than immediately filling them with screen time – pauses both to celebrate (eg. the completion of one task before the start of the next) and to recuperate (eg. allowing our brains to process whatever is going on inside us that we have suppressed because we had a task to complete).  Without these pauses that allow the whale underneath to come to the surface, ‘our bones waste away’ (Psalm 32:3).

These pauses are vital to establishing a rhythm to life – can you imagine the cacophony of a piece of music with no pauses?  It’s been said that if all the space were removed, all the matter in the universe would be the size of a sugar cube.  It is space that makes things what they are.

Are we planning and embracing interruptions to our activity for our own sakes?


There is a tension between the need for interruptions and the need for boundaries.  Just as the second type of interruption breaks through boundaries, so the third type of interruption creates boundaries.  Just as the first type of interruption allows for something more important to happen than what was planned, so at other times interruptions must be resisted to ensure that what is most important is not hijacked.   This too is Christ-like.

In John 10:18, Jesus says: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  Either way, Jesus dies – but it makes an eternal world of difference that he gives his life rather than having it sucked out of him.  For us, it’s the difference between investing ourselves in God’s new creation instead of being consumed by the old creation so that things stay exactly as they are.

In trying to lose a little weight, I have discovered that imposing limits on what I eat has meant that I enjoy what I do eat much more than I did before.  I savour one whatever much more than I ever did two or three.  The boundaries that before looked like they would take the pleasure out of food have actually increased the enjoyment.

Perhaps the key question whenever we are wrestling with a tension between a boundary and an interruption is to ask whether the boundary is allowing the new to emerge or snuffing it out; whether the interruption is letting the new in or keeping it out.