I’m a schedule-keeper. My day is generally broken down into 15-minute segments, and all of those segments are generally spoken for by 8:30 AM. I might answer emails for 45 minutes in the morning (3 segments), have a Sunday planning meeting before lunch (6 segments), and do some marriage counseling in the afternoon (4 segments). Did I say I’m a schedule-keeper? I meant to say I’m a psychotic task-driven second-by-second type A guy that sucks all the fun out of life. Same thing.
But a few months ago I was reminded of a phrase one of my college professors used. I only remember him saying it once, but once was all I needed to have it lodged into my brain for nearly 20 years. He said, “Jesus had a ministry of interruption. You will too. You can either love your schedule, or you can love people.”
Just a simple reading of the gospels backs this up. Jesus was a man on a mission, but he didn’t overlook the fact that people were his mission. Mark 5:21-43 is the story of Jesus healing two people – one of whom interrupted him on his way to his original purpose. (It’s a good thing I wasn’t allowed to be Jesus (for multiple reasons), because I would have grouched to the disciples: “Now look what’s happened! That bleeding lady has put me behind, the little girl is dead, there’s NO WAY I’ll be able to make my 3:00 with that tax collector guy…”)
This is what it looks like for me: a 9 AM phone call from a distraught woman whose husband walked out the night before. A 10:35 drop in from a staff member who is struggling with a project that is going down the tubes quickly. A 2:04 PM request to plan a baptism for a few hundred people…oh yeah, and it’s due tomorrow. A 4:00 text message telling me that a church member is having emergency surgery.
And in those moments, I have a choice: I can love my schedule, or I can love people. I can stick to my guns and check off my to-do list, or I can drop what I’m doing and walk with people through life.
I don’t always get this principle (my co-workers will back me up). Sometimes I’m amazed at my own selfishness…as a pastor who is called to serve, I’m irritated when I have to do so. As a shepherd who’s called to guide, it frustrates me when that need arises. People don’t get sick on my schedule. They don’t have a marital crisis at the right time. And they certainly don’t die when it’s convenient for me.
Are you catching the irony?
Here’s what is about to happen: I’m about to sit down and block out my day. I already know of six meetings (about five hours’ worth) that are on my calendar before 5:00. That leaves a precious few moments to answer email, work on current projects, and attempt to find the top of my desk. And just as the ink dries on that daily schedule, something’s going to come up, someone’s going to drop by, and I’ll have a choice: love my schedule, or love people.
That choice is yours, as well.