I had some time to kill as I was sitting in my van last week, waiting for my friend to arrive at the movie theater. I sat parked on the dark city street, hypnotized by the mindless scrolling on my phone, completely unaware of my surroundings. Suddenly, a knock on my window jolted me out of my social media trance.
I rolled down my window as my eyes zeroed in on a gray nylon bundle with an aged, round face standing under the yellow glow of the dim streetlight. “Do you have change to spare, ma’am?” She asked in a soft, gruff voice. I made small talk while I searched my pockets and purse and gave her what little I could find.
Feeling guilty that I could not offer her more, I asked if I could pray with her. She told me her name was Lesleigh as I reached for her rough, wrinkled hand, and as we prayed together, I could feel all that separated us – culture, experiences, age, and beliefs. But at the same time, there was so much that connected us. We were both someone’s daughter and mother; created by the same loving God with a plan and a purpose.
Yet when she boldly asked if I could take her to get something to eat at the soup kitchen before it closed, I hesitated. I would definitely lose my fantastic parking space. I didn’t want to be late to the movie, and I wasn’t positive I could trust this woman in my van. Wasn’t praying with her enough, I wrestled?
That burn in my heart made my answer clear. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and silently prayed, “Ok, God, it’s You and me. Please protect me, or worst-case-scenario, I’ll see you soon,” I half-heartedly chuckled, and I told her to hop in. My new friend gave me glimpses of her life as we drove the miles together, while I begged my God to take care of her and protect her.
We pulled up at the soup kitchen mere minutes before they closed, and she bolted from the van with a wave, not turning back. I sat there in front of the flickering neon sign where she left me with an incredible fullness I very nearly missed to save my great parking spot.
What other interruptions do I miss, I wondered? Do I wave off opportunities for God’s goodness and grace because it’s inconvenient or unplanned? We associate the word interruption with something negative – a stick thrust in the spokes of our wheels that abruptly throws us off-course. But perhaps that stick in our spokes is a gift from God – a divine interruption.
When a lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus prompted him to recite the commands to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” When the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered his question with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:25-37 tells us the story of a man lying beside the road, stripped and beaten. Two religious men walk past this man, refusing to be interrupted on their journey. The third to pass by, a man who had even more reason to keep on walking because of his prominent cultural differences with this unfortunate traveler, went out of his way to help him.
“…when he saw him, he had compassion.” Luke 10:33
No one expected him to stop. No one would even know if he passed him by like the other men did. He had nothing to gain, and much to lose – time, money, comfort, even reputation. And what if the robbers were still around? It could be dangerous to even get near him. To ease his compassionate heart, he could have dropped a few coins beside him and continued on his way without another thought to this momentary interruption.
But he was willing to be more than just interrupted. He showed this broken man excessive, over-the-top love. He got downright into his mess – delaying his own journey, risking his life, caring for the man’s wounds, and paying for his care.
When we look around and ask the same question the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” we may not like the answer. They might work in the cubicle next to ours or even live in the same house. They might require more of you than you feel you can afford to give. They are likely to be challenging or inconvenient.
Jesus answers the question of how we love our neighbor by showing excessive, over-the-top love. He shows us how to be interruptible and willing to get messy, with whomever He puts in front of us. We might see someone’s messiness and feel we can’t afford to take the time or the risk, but Jesus tells us we can’t afford not to.
Next time you find a stick in your wheels throwing you off-course, consider it a divine interruption. Let’s not pass by on the other side of the road. Like the Samaritan, let’s take notice and get our hands dirty. Our messy world so desperately needs us to be willing to take a risk and get down into the mess with them – to bandage their wounds and walk the journey alongside them. Today is a good day to be a neighbor.