Saturday, November 14, 2009

Life Is Full of Interruptions

Life is all about the interruptions.

After my seemingly impetuous yet long-postponed decision to go gung-ho on redoing my living room by Thanksgiving, the interruptions lined up, one by one.

This living room job is no small task. It’s more than a paint job yet falls short of what it really needs. Still, I am tired of neglecting it. Beside the kitchen, this is the only downstairs room I have not made mine. It’s still painted and carpeted in the pastel colors chosen by the former owner (call me vain, but I look terrible in pastels). Not only that, but as the main gathering room for many years, it’s gotten shabby. And I don’t mean shabby chic. (Psst: I dislike the room so much that, except for a weekly vacuum, I no longer clean it. Yuck!)

About five years ago I redecorated the room next to it, now known as the parlor. It is our sitting room, but I have to shoo people from the yucky room into it.

So this 19-day project includes washing the whole room; texturizing and painting the ceiling; scraping, sanding, priming and painting the woodwork (it’s wainscoted and has a built-in bookcase); painting the walls; ripping up the carpet and two layers of subflooring; then sanding and poly-varnishing the oak floor.

I began Friday with shopping for supplies and emptying the room. That meant, of course, crowding the other downstairs rooms with its chairs, tables and books. Then on Saturday, some friends came over. Not just any friends, but good old friends of whom I see too little. I used to babysit the daughter, who’s now married. As we stood outside talking (it was a beautiful day, so no sense in inviting them in), I thought about my plans for the day.

In my younger days, I rarely finished a project, flitting from one interest to the next. Then I changed. I became goal-driven. I make lists. I check off my list.

Aware of the ceiling job that awaited me, I realized what I wanted more was to be outdoors with Becca on this warm November day. I relaxed. It was okay. It really was okay. The ceiling got done later.

After church on Sunday, my friend Hannah came over. She worked at the newspaper with me for a while. I hadn’t seen her in months. It was another warm, clear day. We ate lunch on the deck and took a walk in the woods. Again, I found myself being in the moment, just being with Hannah and not mentally somewhere else.

Then on Tuesday, when the scraping and sanding was to commence, I really wanted to see Maxine. She’s my almost-90 friend who lives 10 miles away. I hadn’t seen her in months, either. I could not ignore the urgency to visit her.

This is not me, folks. When I have a task to finish, I really cannot be bothered with human beings. Jesus bothered with human beings, even though he had a mission. No, wait … human beings were his mission. He was all about interruptions.

One time, while he was teaching some disciples, a Roman ruler interrupted him. The ruler’s daughter had died. He wanted Jesus to bring her back to life. So Jesus goes to follow the ruler home, and he gets interrupted again. This time it’s a woman who’s been hemorrhaging for 12 years. He heals her, then goes to the ruler’s house and raises the daughter from death.

Another time, he declined to go with his disciples to get food because he was exhausted and wanted to rest. So he’s sitting by a well in the afternoon sun, dozing off, when a woman comes for water. By the end of their conversation, this (“fallen”) woman, who has lived with five or six guys, is free of the shame she’s borne for so long. Woohoo!

The book of Acts is basically stories of healing and grace. Most of it was not planned. It’s like everything that happens during any given day is another opportunity for God’s grace and love to work. I do not say, as some do, that everything that happens is supposed to happen. It just does.

Interruptions, you see, come with faces and names. This week, it was Becca, Hannah and Maxine.

If my Thanksgiving table, laden with its feast, surrounded by those I love, ends up sitting on an old floor, caked with layers of ancient brown varnish, what of it? Really, what of it?

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