Interruptions and God’s Kingdom

Interruptions and God’s Kingdom

What happens when our precious plans go by the wayside?

Photo: Addis Ababa street scene by Radosław Botev, CC BY 3.0 PL, via Wikimedia Commons

Mission partner Suzy Wilson, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with her family, has been learning that God’s Kingdom requires space for spontaneity, for mess, for interruptions.

Christmas dreams

The decorations were going up – beautiful snowflakes and stars out of paper and cardboard. My heart was full as we marvelled at the effect we had created. Just as I was anticipating how wonderful our Advent week was going to be, we had a phone call – a friend was coming and was taking me up on my offer that she was always welcome when in Addis. But I knew culturally my plans wouldn’t really translate, and I found myself already shelving those new traditions before they’d had their moment to exist outside of my mind.

Mission partners Chris and Suzy Wilson

So, this friend and her infant son came to stay just before Christmas. We had so much fun playing with her little boy, enjoying Anuak food and drinking the gorgeous ginger coffee that she prepared for us. Soon after, we felt it necessary to invite a friend’s young teenage daughter to stay for a couple of weeks. I was such a proud mum to see my kids welcome her, play with her, and help her to feel loved in a world she knew little of. It was our first Christmas in our own home and God was bringing people to our door; it smashed my expectations of what I had thought the week was going to look like, and it was glorious.

Even though none of this had been my plan, I knew this was just as it should be – being able to throw those traditions out the window so we could open up our home, show hospitality, and let our lives be interrupted by the unexpected but much loved.

Life turned upside down

I open my Bible to read the Christmas story, and I imagine young Mary sweeping her house, lentil stew simmering on the fire, her baby cousin quietly babbling in the corner – and it’s right there in her quiet predictable every day that her life is interrupted – nay, shattered. The Kingdom of God broke in, ruining all of her expectations of a settled life, and she was able to say yes and Amen.

You don’t have to read deep to understand the beauty and good news of God’s coming and the breaking in of his Kingdom was dependent on ordinary people submitting to their lives being turned upside down.

Hot coffee or wild beauty?

Now our kids are a little older and a little more self-sufficient, our house is normally a quiet and fairly controlled environment, and we thrive in our quotidian rhythms – and I think that’s wonderful too. But I am conscious that I’ve become used to creating boundaries in my life that serve to shut out those things which make me feel uncomfortable – I want to hide the reality that I’m not really in control. I minimise interruption because, essentially, I don’t want to be outside of my comfort zone, I don’t want to miss out on sleep or a meal, or that hot drink I had been looking forward to.

And so, I get my few minutes with a mug of hot coffee, but miss out on the wild beauty of God’s kingdom.

Step outside

Given where we live, interrupting my life can be as simple as choosing to step outside of the gate and navigate the world outside – the world where I am unimaginably wealthy and I have to see the woman begging for money while her toddler sleeps curled up on the side of the road. I get home and any smugness I carried has dissolved, my life doesn’t make as much sense as it did thirty minutes ago, my spirit is troubled – and there is God’s Kingdom, Christ in me, who sees the broken-hearted and will not tolerate walking past injustice unaffected.

Interruptions might look like a daily reality of living with chronic sickness or sleepless nights with a baby, or caring for a sick spouse, and instead of being stuck in the why, daring to whisper, where – where is God’s kingdom in the midst of this? It might mean keeping the old scruffy furniture for a little bit longer so when the neighbour comes over desperate for connection and her children climb over the sofa with their muddy shoes on, you can shrug your shoulders and breathe in, “come Lord Jesus”, and breathe out words of grace and kindness instead of stress and frustration. It might mean logging off from social media and meeting those people who don’t think like you, but then you learn their name and snippets of their life and you can’t ignore or discredit them anymore.

Expecting interruption

For me, welcoming interruptions is difficult – but I’m learning, because I desperately don’t want to miss out. It means I am embracing the fact that our Christmas is low-key, and mainly revolves around gingerbread and Jesus, and aiming to keep it that way. It means our house leans towards being practical rather than aesthetically pleasing – knowing that helps me stay relaxed when the unexpected comes knocking. It means walking outside of the compound, greeting some of those desperate people, sharing a smile, even when I can’t lift them out of their poverty. It means trying not to panic when I can’t sleep and choosing instead to turn towards Jesus.

My prayer this year is our home will be a place of refuge, with plenty of mugs of cold coffee scattered on surfaces – and that as a family we will learn to exude hospitality and welcome when our day is interrupted, expectant that in those moments of inconvenience, God’s kingdom breaks in.

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