We were driving along a remote road along the Deschutes River on our way to meeting in Sunriver, OR. We passed a woman who was trying to fix her flat tire. She looked distressed. “Maybe we should stop and help,” I said to Greg. “No, we are late for a meeting. Someone else will help her.” In just a couple of minutes we heard the blup, blup, blup of our own tire. Without saying a word, we got out and fixed the tire together. Then Greg turned the car around and went back to help the woman. She was no longer there. Apparently she had been able to change the tire. As we resumed our course for the meeting, Greg said, “I guess when the Lord means for you to change a tire you are going to change a tire.”
You cannot read about the life of Jesus without concluding that He was interruptible. He turned aside for a woman with a twelve-year illness, a centurion with a dying servant, a blind man by the road, and a tax collector in a tree. The list goes on. Jesus was willing to stop what He was doing as opportunities presented themselves for comforting, serving, teaching, or healing.
As Jesus’ followers, we too are presented with opportunities; one after another – in our homes, in our neighborhoods, on our commutes, in our workplaces. We have to be wise with how we respond and I am not suggesting that we need to become perpetually guilty about every possible interruption presented, but what if we were to change our routines enough to respond to some of the circumstances that interrupt us? And if we discern that it is right and we do so, do we have faith that God will attend to the challenges it may create in our remaining day’s schedule?
I have the privilege of leading short-term mission teams to various places around the world. I’ve learned that Americans have a reputation of being primarily production oriented. One Ugandan pastor said that America is the “fix-it committee.” Americans take a look, come up with what is the “obvious” solution, and get right to it. He said we are weak on relationship. We rarely understand the real issues that underlie a particular problem. We are so focused on solutions that we don’t take the time to get to know the people who are living with the problems. We think we can resolve problems simply by our education and resources. We don’t consider the long term ramifications of our solutions.
A short-term mission team by its nature is not able to deal with such things, which is why we work with local people who do have the relationships and experience to define both problem and solution. We usually come as the production team for what has already been decided. One of the instructions I give teams is that whatever we are doing, be it a construction, teaching, or digging water wells, we have complete freedom to stop what we are doing when opportunities to meet people present themselves. We are to be interruptible. That way we can respond relationally to the Holy Spirit’s divine appointments. Besides, it gives us a taste of another culture that values time differently than we do.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2, ESV)
It has been said that if the devil cannot make you sin, he will make you busy. Do we miss what God is doing because we are too busy to respond to the assignments He has for us? In the story of the tire, Greg and I were worried about being late for an important meeting. When we arrived, we discovered that it had been delayed an hour. God had set our circumstances in place – all we had to do was to operate in faith.