Dealing with Interruptions

Nobody likes to be interrupted, nor do they like to feel as if they have interrupted someone else. Yet we are all guilty of it. We call someone on the phone and can tell they are distant or not totally focused on the conversation, so we ask, “Am I interrupting you?” We see someone in public and stop to talk, only to notice that their eye contact is erratic, their responses are short, and their movements are fidgety, so we say something like, “I don’t want to keep you.”

When we feel we’ve interrupted someone, we are often apologetic. But what happens when someone interrupts us? I know sometimes I’m patient, but other times I’m not. Sometimes I am able to stop what I am doing, but other times I am inattentive, insensitive, and maybe even rude. At my best, I am compassionate and receptive. At my worst, I’m inconsiderate and self-absorbed.

When I read about the life of Jesus, I am amazed at His ability to stop what He was doing and give His full attention to those who were calling for it. In a casual skimming of Matthew, I was able to identify at least 29 times when Jesus was interrupted. In every one of those situations, He stopped what He was doing and responded to the immediate requests of those who called for His attention.

One such example is found in Matthew 20:29-34 (NIV):


As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder… Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked… Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

A couple of things stick out to me here. First, in the midst of a large crowd and in the presence of His inner circle of disciples, Jesus “stopped,” even when people didn’t expect Him to and when some even rebuked the blind men for asking. Second, Jesus had compassion for the blind men and touched them.

I don’t know about you, but I want and need to be more like Jesus. I know I can’t be there for everyone all the time, and I will often fail. Still, I want to be able to live in the moment and relish the opportunities that come with interruptions. Whether it comes in the form of my children calling for my attention, an untimely phone call, a friendly church member in the hallway, or an uncooperative appliance in my house, interruptions are a reality of life. That cannot be changed. But how I respond to those interruptions is an area that can be changed.