Rachel is one of those people who likes to be organised.
Happily for her, she’s also one of those people who’s rather good at it. Which, at this particular time, is just as well, because it’s busy for Rachel. She and her husband and her two children, aged 2 and 4, have just moved house. And they haven’t just moved house but city as well. And not just city but church, and not just city and church, but jobs.
For Rachel that’s three days working as a creative in a local charity. For her husband it’s full-time in a school going through difficulties. And that means he’s less around than he wants to be and less around than everyone else wants him to be.
But Rachel is organised, she has her schedule. And if she works her schedule, her schedule works, which is why she rather prefers to keep to it.
And so it comes to pass that on one of those days that she’s not working at the charity, she’s at the school gate, dropping off her daughter and chatting to another mum who happens to know her mother-in-law… So far, this is all fine because her schedule allows time for incidental chats at the school gate. But then the woman invites herself round to Rachel’s house for coffee – there and then.
There and then!
It’s not far to Rachel’s house. It’s actually just round the corner, but this is not part of Rachel’s schedule. Frankly, she’s irritated. She’s irritated because this is not part of the schedule. She’s irritated because she has other things to do in this time slot – errands to run, cleaning to complete. And she’s irritated because, despite her formidable communication skills, she’s not found the right, warm, affirming, and polite way to say, ‘It’s really not that convenient today but two weeks on Tuesday would be perfect. At 9.10?’
But she doesn’t find the right way to say that, or any way at all for that matter. And so the woman comes round.
And Rachel welcomes her in her usual warm way, jauntily concealing her simmering irritation. And then it happens… with the kettle boiling, the chosen mugs popped on the counter, the rectangular tea bags dropped into place, the milk plucked from the fridge… then it hits her.
Maybe the things she had planned to do in this time slot don’t actually really have to happen in this time slot. And they don’t. She realises that her two days a week away from the charity give her something immensely precious – flexibility. It’s a flexibility very few people have in paid work. After all, not many people in paid or volunteer jobs can just saunter off for a long chat with someone at 9.10 on a Tuesday morning. She begins to wonder: what might she do with this gift? Now, this morning, with this woman. And what, in the future, might God want her to do with this gift?
The woman stays for an hour and a half. An hour and a half! It turns out that there’s a good reason why she really wanted to talk to someone, and not just anyone, but someone like Rachel, who is not only rather good at being organised but also has a steadiness about her, a kindness, an openness, and a warmth that makes her the kind of person that people instinctively feel they can trust. Happily, Rachel is the kind of person you can trust.
Afterwards Rachel reflects on what happened, on the good that seemed to come out of the conversation for the other woman. And then she begins to realise that God was doing something else that wasn’t about the other woman at all, it was about her.
Yes, she has lots to do, but that doesn’t mean that it always has to be done at particular times in a particular order. She can move things around, adjust her schedule, take time to talk to a mum who needs to talk, do the errand tomorrow, clean the house in the afternoon, complete next week’s schedule after lunch. More deeply, she recognises that for all the benefits of having a schedule, she had made it her schedule – she hadn’t given it to God. And God, on that morning, had something else on his agenda. As it says in Proverbs, ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails’ (Proverbs 19:21). Rachel realises that she had been holding on to her plans too tightly. She hadn’t given her plans, her time, her schedule to God. She hadn’t relinquished her schedule to God’s schedule.
It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to discern between interruption and divine interruption, to develop the skill to trust that God might be in the interruption, to ask to see the situation, the person from his point of view. Oh yes, Rachel has learned to trust God for all kinds of things: for work, for finances, for the right home at the right price in the place God wants them to be… big things. Yet somehow it’s actually easier to trust God with the big things – they are big, obvious, unavoidable – but to walk through one’s day learning to trust God in all its little things, in the planned things and the diversions and the stop signs and the delays, that’s something else.
Over the weeks Rachel continues to reflect and realises it is not first and foremost a question of God’s authority or his right to interrupt her day and send her off like Jonah to preach to non-believers in Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). No, it isn’t primarily about his authority, it’s more that she realises that God wants to abide with her in her day, to walk in it with her, to live in it with her, to so be in her that she sees things through his eyes. ‘I pray,’ Jesus prays the night before his execution, ‘…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17:20–21).
This isn’t, she realises, primarily about authority but about relationship. And in this instance it isn’t primarily about hearing God’s voice, about having ears to hear, but about seeing things differently, about having eyes to see, about learning that the right vantage point to take is the vantage point God takes. Why has God brought this woman to me? What does he want me to bless her with?
Since then, Rachel’s been walking around with her eyes wide open. She’s been observing how this community of mums works. She’s joined the city’s mums’ group on
Facebook. There are lots of them on there – 4000. And they’re very open about their struggles, about their brokenness, about husbands who have betrayed them, partners who have left them, children who are sick, pressures at work, pressures without work… And the responses are moving too – full of kindness, compassion, and encouragement.
Rachel’s eyes are open now to the behind-the-doors-reality of so many mums’ lives, and that’s made her eager for God to give her opportunities to share his transforming love – in his time. Whatever her schedule.
How do you tend to respond to inconvenient interruptions?
Reflecting back on your day or a recent event, can you see what God might have been doing, or how he might have wanted you to respond?
‘I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’
Submit Your One About
Each of us will have moments or stories like these, but we easily forget or don’t see them. Yet they can be such a source of encouragement to us, and to others.
Why not take some time to tell us your own story of God at work in your everyday? We’d love to hear it – and, with your permission, share it to help others see how God might be working through them!