How to Embrace Holy Interruptions

Those of us who have grown up in the evangelical church have learned, whether directly or indirectly, that “real” ministry requires significant sacrifice. For some reason, we seem convinced that the work of the Great Commission should only occur beyond the borders of the United States. Yet, there are people all around us looking for mentors. We’re missing an opportunity to care for the loneliest generation.

Sixty-nine percent of individuals surveyed for Springtide Research Institute’s “The State of Religion & Young People 2020” who reported having one adult mentor also believe their life has meaning and purpose. The same survey reports 85% who have two to four adult mentors and 91% of those who have five or more adult mentors said their life has meaning and purpose. The more mentors someone has, the more meaning they believe their life has.

This recent survey matches what my husband, Ordell, and I have experienced throughout the past twenty years of relational ministry. Our ministry has always centered around the athletic teams Ordell coaches. As we have welcomed people into our home, spent time leading bible studies, listening to and praying with others, we’ve repeatedly seen the impact we make in the lives of people when we take a genuine interest in their lives. When people know we care about them, they trust our perspective on life. Embracing “holy interruptions” has allowed us to affirm that we care about people and has opened them up to hear and consider our views on life.

As a football coach’s wife, relationally mentoring college students is a natural part of my yearly rhythm. Living on mission for my family looks different from living on mission for other families, but our heart for whoever stands in front of us is the same. As we interact with our team on and off the football field, we strive to show the players we care about what they care about, whether that’s the latest video game release or their classroom success.

For my family, holy interruptions vary. One day we may join the team on the sidelines and cheer our hearts out so each player knows we see them. Another day I may intend to run a few errands alone only to have a student text and ask if she can talk about a challenging situation. Rather than becoming frustrated that I need to change my plans, I choose to multitask. I embrace the opportunity to spend time walking shoulder to shoulder with someone who needs a listening ear and welcome the company I have while running errands.

We’ve served groups of college and high school students, led small groups of peers in our communities, and my husband, Ordell, has led his staff through leadership development studies. Each time we’ve encountered people who have sought deeper mentoring relationships for a season. It is always a privilege to receive an invitation to join someone on any part of their life journey.

Why You Should Embrace Interruptions

The truth is, the more our lives reflect Jesus, the more we must hold our plans loosely. As a coach’s wife, I’ve had to learn to accept the phrase “game time decision” as common vernacular. This means that we plan and anticipate, but until the situation is in front of us we don’t make a final decision. We retain this posture as long as possible because we want to ensure that God is with us as we move forward. We also want to make sure we see the whole picture.

I love this perspective on life interruptions from C.S. Lewis:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

from a 1943 letter from C.S. Lewis, included in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis

How Do We Embrace Holy Interruptions?

Offering advice on embracing interruptions is challenging for various reasons. First, different personalities will respond to interruptions in a variety of ways. Some people will need to try to plan for an interruption while others are perfectly willing to go with the flow. Some people find themselves in seasons where interruptions tip over an already too full plate while others embrace the change in pace.

That said, there are a few things we can all do to ensure that we embrace holy interruptions well.

  1. Commit to personal Spiritual growth.
    • When our eyes, ears, hearts, and souls are tuned to God it doesn’t matter what the day holds. We will handle it better than if we’re trying to white knuckle through things on our own.
  2. Ask God to help you discern the interruptions that you should spend extra energy and attention on.
    • Interruptions will happen. Not every encounter is one that deserves your time and attention.
  3. Pause to pray before every yes and no.
    • It’s likely that a holy interruption will come with a request for a further commitment. It’s okay to ask for time to consider any request you receive.
  4. Thank God for trusting you to serve him in this important way.
    • Discipleship is an important responsibility. It’s vital to stay humble and the best way to do that is with gratitude.

Ready to Learn More about Embracing Holy Interruptions?

Embracing Holy Interruptions book cover

We’re all called to different communities and different types of ministries. But when we are followers of Jesus, our calling to live out the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment are the same. As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we’re all called to “make disciples of all nations” wherever we live. God invites us to partner with him and live on mission every day, even in the mundane moments of life. We do this when we love people as Jesus taught the disciples to do, without stipulations.

Embracing Holy Interruptions: How Jesus Used Mundane Moments to Love People Deeply is a six-week Bible study that teaches people how to develop a disciple-making movement.

This is not a step-by-step instruction manual.

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