Interruptions seem to be an integral part of motherhood. Just as I plunge my hands into a sink of dirty dishwater, my daughter tells me that the baby needs his diaper changed. Or a toddler comes and says he needs his shoe tied. Or wants his bumped head kissed. As my children grow older, the types of interruptions change. Happy seven-year-olds want to prattle about everything under the sun just as I reach the most suspenseful chapter in the mystery I’m reading; emotional teenagers will want to talk and sob and talk some more just as I’m getting ready for bed (so I’m told they will; we don’t have any teens yet in my house). I’m sure that as long as I own a telephone, my children will manage to rearrange my scheduled day as blithely as they do now. Nor do mothers have a copyright on interruptions; every office worker who uses a phone — and everyone under the sun who carries a cell phone — can recognize the extreme annoyance that interruptions can bring.
Yet, in rebelling against interruptions, are we not in danger of missing a supreme opportunity of gaining grace? Interruptions are the perfect antidote to self-will. Whether we enjoy what we’re doing or not, we don’t like to have our focus disrupted — especially if we don’t like what we’re doing because then we have to muster up all our self-discipline to tackle the project all over again. So interruptions offer us a prime opportunity to submit our will to the good Lord’s. Sometimes it’s hard to know His will. Should I bake my husband’s favorite dessert or call a sick friend or dust the house? All are good and worthy activities, and we may not have time for them all. Which is God’s will for us? So often we pick whatever we most feel like doing. That’s our self-will acting. But then we’re interrupted. When we hear a toddler call “Done!” from the bathroom, we know what God’s will is for us at that moment. We don’t have to ask any questions.
Like a nun in a convent when she hears the bell ring, we must drop whatever we’re doing and go do something else. St. Therese of Lisieux would not even finish dotting an “i” or crossing a “t” if the convent bell rang to summon her to some other duty. She wanted to render perfect obedience to God, and she knew that He was commanding her through the convent bell and through her superiors. It can be difficult to hear the voice of God in the whiney voice of a child — or in the shrill ring of a phone — or alarm clock – but we must try. Because it’s there.
When we feel tempted to complain, “I can’t get anything done around here!” because of all our interruptions, it’s a good time to ask ourselves, “Why are you trying to get something done?” We most likely would respond, “I’m cleaning and cooking for my husband and children, of course!” But are we? If we are, then we shouldn’t mind when our husband or children interrupt us with their needs. And if we answer, “I’m doing all this for God; after all, I said my morning offering today!” then we have even less reason to complain. So what if our plan for the day has been thwarted? His plan is never thwarted. Every interruption is allowed by His all-powerful and all-seeing goodness. When we become irritated at interruptions, we see the impurity of our intentions. We realize we were not really working to please our families or to please God, but to please ourselves.
Interruptions seem like such little things, and yet how often we allow them to alter our mood! We blame them for our failures in our work, and we allow them to make us irritable, sometimes even frantic, for the remainder of the day! We let interruptions destroy our interior peace. Yet if we could conquer our own will in these little things, how much easier to conquer our wills in the bigger things! The saints tell us that to grow closer to God, we must annihilate our own will and self-love and fill ourselves with love of God. Let’s thank God for interruptions, as we offer up each one as joyfully as we can, for the salvation of our own souls and those of our family.