I’ll start off today by saying that I, most likely like you, hate to be interrupted.
Specifically though, I hate to have my schedule interrupted. Whether it be by an unforeseen traffic stop on the road, a call from an acquaintance who wants to spend thirty minutes just catching up, or “that” guy at the gym taking forever on the curl machine while I standby.
I am most definitely married to my plan for the day, the hour, and even (gulp) sometimes for the minute. So you can imagine the pain I had last weekend when I invited one of my good friends’ Jack Russell Terrier to stay with us as he and his wife went out of town to an orphanage to minister. Why would that be a pain you ask?
There are dogs that bark and then there is Riley. There are dogs that chew and then there is Riley. At 1:30 a.m., 3:15 a.m., 4:30 a.m., 5:00 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. on Friday Night I was jolted out of sleep as he decided to howl like a wild coyote seeing a full moon the first time. This repeated again on Saturday night. Then, during the day as I sat zombie-like enjoying the golf tournament with a bowl of popcorn, he jumped onto the couch and knocked my drink out of my hand. I missed a birdie putt from Tiger Woods as I shopvacked the spill. Putting it bluntly, Riley was an interruption. And I was angry about it.
Here’s the problem with my attitude. I was the one that INVITED the interruption into my home. It was my idea! So why was I complaining?
In Acts chapter 16 there’s a plan from Paul and his companions to head into modern-day Turkey for a missionary journey. I can imagine much planning surrounded this trip. Certain funds for travel taxes were surely taken up, lodging would have had to be considered in advance and the route for the trip would most have assuredly been mapped out to the very detail. However, in verse 6, something out of the ordinary happens. It says that “the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia (Turkey).” Even for us ministers that is a bit of a head scratcher and brings up many questions. How were they prevented? Didn’t God say he wanted the gospel to go to all the ends of the earth?
While reading this I found myself being frustrated for Paul and his team. What an interruption to a perfectly good plan! But as I let it rest, I realized that many times in his epistles to his churches Paul calls for us to be:
“Controlled” by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5-6)
“Walking ” in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)
“Sowing” to the Spirit ( Galatians 6:8)
I take this to mean that Paul daily, if not hourly, invited the Holy Spirit to lead and guide his very steps. I also believe that he was fully aware that his plan would frequently be augmented. As a pastor and leader, I must admit that I am at a crossroads with this type of mentality. How can one effectively lead and be faithful with the time given if interruptions are a constant?
The answer is that if we are to model ourselves after Paul, then we should simply want the Spirit and His supernatural work more than our own blueprints played out.
His Presence or our Plan?
Let’s not get confused–there needs to be some sort of balance in this. To be “controlled” by the spirit means to just that… control. Control is given over for the Spirit to lead.
Interesting enough, the missionary journey that was canceled had a purpose that was divine (imagine that!) Paul and his friends picked up a very important cog to their team in Dr. Luke, who was indispensable in his skills with medicine and also became a documentor of all that took place.
The questions for us here is straightforward:
Are we comfortable as leaders inviting the Spirit into our tightly guarded schedule? Are we happy to be interrupted? Do we truly want his ways over ours?
A week removed from my Riley experience and I’m still not going to invite him back, sorry – one can only change so much! However, I am more aware of my willingness (or sometimes lack thereof) to let the Holy Spirit into my daily plans. Who knew an annoying Jack Russell could be such a good teacher?