I have a friend who says that there is no such things as coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. The mathematician inside of me is skeptical with images of probability calculations and statistical charts. I am resistant to ascribe a higher meaning to why I ran into a former student yesterday, but it feels at times that certain coincidences seem to be too good to be just chance.

Interruptions fall into the same area as coincidences because of a sense of lack of control. Interruptions infer that I am doing something that I want to, need to, or have to do, and something else, usually another person, diverts my attention and energy. My first honest reaction is a silent minor protest, but then I deal with it. By their nature, interruptions tend to have a negative connotation.

But Henri J. M. Nouwen in Reaching Out asks:

But what if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities, if they are challenges to an inner response by which growth takes place and through which we come to the fullness of being? What if the events of our [personal] history are molding us as a sculptor molds his clay, and if it is only in a careful obedience to these molding hands that we can discover our real vocation and become mature people? What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact invitations to give up old-fashioned and out-moded styles of living and are opening up new unexplored areas of experience? And finally: What if our [personal] history does not prove to a blind impersonal sequence of events over which we have no control, but rather reveals to us a guiding hand pointing to a personal encounter in which all our hopes and aspirations will reach their fulfillment?

Interruptions are opportunities. It is through our interruptions that we have an opportunity to step out of ourselves, an opportunity to serve others and the Lord.

Nouwen also recounts a story by a college professor that illustrates my point, “…my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”

As I have written before, one way to show your love for God is to love your neighbor, and one way to show love for your neighbor is through service to others. Interruptions are a signal to service. I wonder how often I fail to notice?

Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark 6:30-34 describes such an interruption:

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them, “Come away by yourselves
to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves
to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.