It was not a good weekend to have plane tickets.
It just so happened that the weekend our Fresh Expressions US team was scheduled to go to Florida to lead a training retreat would also be the weekend a major snowstorm would hit the East Coast. Little did I know that in addition to praying for the retreat, I would also be praying to get home at some point. Little did I know that I, along with thousands of other travelers, would spend hours listening to airline infomercials and cheesy elevator music while waiting on hold in airline reservation purgatory. Little did I know I’d have to wait two days for runways to be cleared.
Little did I know that there would be something holy about this interruption.
The Best Laid Plans…
While air travel is an arena of life in which plans and timing can change in an instant, it’s among a number of situations on which we depend but are out of our control. In ministry, they come by the handful, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes shredding our best-laid plans for discipleship, missional expansion, and experimentation. These occurrences become places where your brain can go into overdrive trying to figure out the possibilities, wondering how you’re ever going to get from here to there, reviewing in your mind’s eye how it might have been easier to do something else. They’re places where you can become so internally focused on what isn’t going to happen that you’re walking around in a kind of depressed fog, missing what others are saying to you, what’s going on around you. These places make you feel helpless and hopeless, angry and frustrated.
But it’s in these places, these interruptions, where God often shows his face and fingerprints—that is, if we have eyes to see them.
Interruptions in the Gospels
It’s interesting that in the gospels, we hardly get a glimpse of a smooth trip, a perfectly-executed teaching session, a mission without obstacles, or an easy crowd. There are weather delays and mean-spirited people, followers who bail and demanding commoners, excursions that go in circles and hostile mission fields, sickness, law trouble, and even death. Mark chases story after story with the word eutheos, translated “immediately,” as indicating an ongoing nature and continuous drama of Jesus’ journeys. It’s like the craziness never stops.
But it’s in these interruptions that healings transpire, pithy sayings emerge, people are fed, resurrections take place. It’s in the space created by these interruptions that powerful prayers are prayed and new directions are given—even if it seems like you were just there and have to go around the mountain again. Something happens to us when our strategic plans and goals and calendars are put on delay. These holy moments become sacred ground where humanity loses control but God shows his.
Fight or Flight?
My extra time in Florida waiting for the northern runways to be cleared turned into an amazing day spent with strangers-turned-friends. One of our prayer partners drove to pick me up from my hotel to worship with her and her church, and I wound up taking part in the end of a youth conference, watching seven people be baptized, singing along with a band whose musicians happen to be friends with my worship leader in Virginia, being prayed for by a powerful circle of prayer warriors, and enjoying lunch and telling stories around a table. “This was a holy interruption,” one of my new friends smiled at me as she looked into my eyes. I was still praying for my flight not to be canceled the next day, but something inside of me reminded me that wasn’t in my control either. I had best keep myself open to what God was showing me, right then, right there. It became holy ground. It became a holy day and a half I never would have otherwise experienced. And I still do not know the future implications God has for it.
Might you be experiencing a holy interruption? Perhaps it’s not a flight issue, but rather a fight issue. Could you be experiencing a holy interruption in the ministry you had so carefully designed? In your five-year, ten-year, twenty-year plan? this new venture your church is pursuing? In your weekly schedule or Sunday game-plan or the necessary errand-running you despise? In the staff you work with or for, in your team, in your own family? If you stood back, kept your ears open, and took a look around, what would you begin to see? What has been lifted out of your control? What do you need to be reminded that’s still in God’s?
Holy interruptions are often the fingerprints that show us our Potter is up to a new creation. We just have to take our eyes off our foiled plans and look around long enough to see them.
Kris Beckert is a Mission Strategist/Trainer with Fresh Expressions US. She serves as Pastor of Innovation and Multiplication at Salem Fields Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.