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The Thieves of the Present: Interruptions


Issue 386

How often have you been in a conversation with someone and one of you has to say “Sorry, I just need to take this”, referring, of course, to the mobile (cell) phone that is lying on the table between you , which has just indicated ‘incoming call’; the flow of the conversation pauses, while the intruder is encountered.

What just happened? it is clear that while you and your companion were talking, one of you allowed a third party to interrupt. This can be disruptive enough, but there is another habit, which you may have, of placing your handheld device in your eye line and keeping watch over it, in case a message arrives: now, you not only allow the third party to interrupt, but the possibility of the third party to interrupt.

Your attention, then, is permanently divided between person and small screen, and the little device has found a role as a thief of your ability to be present in the moment.

There is a popular approach to such dilemmas, which would ask the question, “If cell phones were available in Jesus’ day, would he take the call?” It’s part of a wider question of the ‘what would Jesus do?’ type. So our minds go to the night time interview with Nicodemus, who begins an enquiry with an opening line about God being with Jesus; Instead of talking to him about being born again, Jesus says “Can you wait a minute, I just need to take this call?”

Take your mind to the lawyer’s question; he asks, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replies, “Speaking of neighbours, one of them is just calling me; can you bear with me for a minute?”

Martha speaks to Jesus and says “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work?”’ Jesus responds, “Hang on a minute, Martha, my mum’s just texted me.”

Before we twist the bible any more, you might like to consider the fact that Jairus asked Jesus to heal his daughter and Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted by a desperate woman. Jesus wanted to rest with his disciples, but instead, found himself interrupted by the crowd.

It is not the fact of allowing interruption or not which emerges from Jesus’ work style. There is an underlying principle:

Jesus always, always gave gracious, patient and loving attention to those he was with: that is the principle. Nicodemus, the lawyer, Martha, Jairus, the desperate woman, all had his focused attention. We don’t need to ask the question, “Would Jesus have taken the call?” We do need to see what he did do, which is give people a sense of value, attention and presence when he was with them.

Your call.

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Geoff Shattock

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