Sacred Interruptions

“While visiting the University of Notre Dame, where I had been a teacher for a few years, I met an older, experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. As we strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice, “You know, my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
Henri Nouwen

I ran into her while I was out on my prayer walk. Sometimes I find that mingling my need to talk to God with the steady pace of my feet pounding the cement brings out the silent conversation that’s been brewing in my heart. I was just beginning to focus, a rare experience for me, when a frantic wave and an oncoming, swerving car caught my attention.

She pulled over. “Hi, Dan!” she said as she wound down her window. “It’s so good to see you!” I was a bit less jubilant, shaken from my meditative stupor, but it was still pleasant to see her. She’s a single mother. One with a smile most every time I’ve seen her.

She has a few beautiful kids, one of whom is a sweet little princess with Down’s Syndrome. I have a tiny place in my heart reserved for that young charmer.

That little star stole my heart one Sunday after our morning service in the high school where our church met. She took off from her mother, and began to run into the stairwell of the massive, vacant building. I saw the incident and bolted after her, afraid she might quickly become lost in a lonely hallway of a labarynthine building, and not know what to do. A dear friend of mine, who also has a Down’s girl, told me the story of how when he first came to our church, his daughter was lost for an hour in the school, and they found her sitting in her urine in a classroom, silent in response to their beckoning.

The image went through my mind over a millisecond’s time, and I began to run faster up the stairs. I caught her as she rounded a corner, on the cusp of escaping my view. I gently lunged for her, and we stumbled to the cold, hard floor. We both began to spontaneously laugh. She out of sheer glee that I had joined her in a game of chase, and I out of sheer joy I caught her before possible hours of emotional tragedy.

This woman’s husband has been in jail for years, and she has persevered through losses right and left. At one point, she was beat up in her home, in front of her kids, by some rough women in her neighborhood. A friend petitioned the police for some form of justice, but received a deaf ear. So, a group from our church began to pray, appealing the a Judge beyond time and space, and within a few weeks the perpetrators came to her door to authentically apologize, moved by some unseen force. They then moved out of the neighborhood. God gives relief to the oppressed, sometimes this side of heaven.

I remember another time where she came into our church office, and she shyly asked if we could chat. It seems she had run out of food, and needed two more days worth until her social assistance check came. She died a thousand deaths that she had to ask me for help. Her sunken eyes made me grieve that I had to help her.

She was thrilled to tell me now, in this meeting by the curb, that she had a new job. She was working at a variety store, and her sense of confidence was coming back. Her husband, now out of jail and wanting to make a new life for he and his family, was back in Ireland buying a home for them. She was moving to be with him in a few weeks.

I was overwhelmed with her joy. She always seems to have that effect on people – a smile undaunted by her dark realities. And in the middle of my prayer walk I was stopped by a living example that God redeems, loves, and moves in this world; in her world and mine. When the interruption to my prayers is a memorial to the truth that prayers are answered, I welcome the invasion of my space.

“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.”

From Matthew 6:31-32 in The Message

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