Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Godly interruptions

It is funny how quickly comments like this: “Just go play for a second while I finish this one email sweetie,” turn into this: “I SAID GO PLAY!!!” Sometimes I have such patience for kids being kids, and other times I seem to have none at all. What makes the difference?

I think it has something to do with how I look at my time. As C.S. Lewis said:
Men are not angered by misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied…Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.

Being a highly task-oriented person, I start most days with a mental list of things to do with “my time.” I seem to remember days with one or two kids that I could still “get things done” even with the babies around. I am a multi-tasker: I can praise the toddler artwork, respond to emails, talk on the phone, help someone with a puzzle, and make lunch all at the same time. As long as everyone cooperates and lets me do what I need to do, things go smoothly. But when “my time” is interrupted, especially by toddler fights, whines, or other inconveniences, things start to fall apart. I get angry and frustrated; annoyed to be distracted once again from my never-ending list of things I need to do.

In the book Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis writes imaginary letters between demons who are working to mislead and corrupt a Christian. After making the above insight on anger, Screwtape gleefully describes how easy it is to frustrate human beings by simply encouraging the notion “my time is my own.”

He comments:
The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defense. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and the moon as his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed to a total service of the Enemy; and if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse. He would be greatly relieved if that one day involved nothing harder than listening to the conversation of a foolish woman; and he would be relieved almost to the pitch of disappointment if for one half hour in that day, the Enemy said, “Now you may go and amuse yourself.” Now, if he thinks about this assumption for a moment, even he is bound to realize that he is actually in this situation every day.

Our time is not our own, not really, and we have little say in how we spend it most days. Although I planned to catch up on bills and emails today, apparently God wants me to care for a sick child instead.  I can call this an interruption of "my" time, or I can try to see this as a clear direction from God as to what I am to do with myself today.  "Do what is in front of you, daughter." 

Somtimes what I thought was going to be "in front of me" changes at the last minute.  This unpredictability that is necessarily part of motherhood is something I find terribly frustrating.  It's enough to make me impatient, or angry, and it is enough to move me to prayer.

Father, open my eyes to the gift of each moment. Help me to make shorter lists, to remember that Your plans for my day may not be what I expect. When “interruptions” come in to my day, help me to look to you for patience, and equip me to meet those needs that you place in front of me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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