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Chaplain's Corner: Life interruptions happen; are you prepared?

By Army Chaplain (Maj.) Will Harrison | JBER Chaplain | July 16, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

Rarely does a day go by without something interrupting the tasks that need to get accomplished. It seems as though those interruptions usually occur at the most inopportune time and disrupt the most critical tasks. These interruptions derail us, they knock us out of our zone, and distract us from living our lives.

On particularly dramatic days it can seem as though we have accomplished nothing important and have simply failed at life for the day.

Interruptions happen in small ways that are annoying, and very large ways that can be debilitating.

Our attitude and response, however, can shape what these interruptions mean, how we react to them, and turn them from frustrations into the building blocks of a rich and meaningful life.

Jesus told a story that illustrates this. One day a man gets mugged and beat up so badly he is left to die on the street. Two people walk past the man, unwilling to assist. A third, however, was attentive to the interruption, aided the man, and took him to get care.

Jesus lauded this third man as example for all of us to follow in our attitudes and interactions with others. It also helps us see how to handle interruptions.
Our culture today fosters interruptions and breeds an attitude of immediacy. "Everything must be done the way I want it done and on my timeline."

We take this attitude with us throughout the day and into our relationships. If something does not meet our expectations, or another, seemingly more beneficial opportunity arises, our culture approves flaking out of previous commitments. Our entire life is structured to accommodate and enable this frenetic shifting of activity and priorities.

This lack of rhythm has not, however, made us more adaptable and capable of adequately handling interruptions.

The loss of our rhythms, the narratives that undergird our lives, has actually made it more difficult to adapt to interruptions.

Without an overarching sense of meaning or purpose to our culture, every event must be measured against every other event to determine its value, the importance we choose to give it, and how much we focus on that event based on what we feel matters that day.

Our values shift easily, and without a strong sense of belonging many are left to try and understand and accomplish this alone.

Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan shows that life's interruptions don't have to be negative, but can instead be positive events that are woven into life that give us the meaning and purpose we so often lack today.

While it is impossible to know the mind of the Samaritan, as he was a fictional character from a parable Jesus told in response to a question, there are some principles that will enable us to embrace interruptions and transform them into opportunities for success.

We know interruptions will happen, but so often we do not prepare for them. The Samaritan was prepared for contingencies and was able to assist the injured man with the skills he had.

What are your skills? If you are good at something, how prepared are you to perform that skill at a moment's notice? Anticipate you will need to, and prepare for it. That will give you a solid foundation from which to adapt to the interruptions that arise.

When we view interruptions as distractions, they catch us off guard. Changing your attitude towards them can go a long way to helping you be ready for them.

By seeing interruptions as a chance to showcase and to shine, when they arise, it will be easier to evaluate how you can best address the issue rather than trying to figure out how you can avoid it.

By accepting that interruptions will happen, and that they can't be avoided, we can start to shape our lives in such a way when they occur, we know what matters to us, why we act the way we do and are prepared to live out our values.

If you can do that, you will find that the number of true interruptions you face is quite minimal and rather than being overwhelmed with distractions, you will have a consistent chain of opportunities to make a difference that matters to others, to our culture, and to you.