My own story is dull, even pedestrian, but it will serve to make the point. I have settled into life here in Dallas: new home, new diocese, new parish, new friends. Settling in meant finding a new routine of life that works in this new place. I get up about 5 o’clock, say Morning Prayer and maybe also a bit of Bible study on the readings. Then I go out onto the Katy Trail, run just over a mile to Starbucks. I take my journal with me, and there I sit for a half-hour or so and write, thinking back over the previous day and what good things happened, what bothersome things happened, and what sins I should name.
The journal quickly evolved into a time of conversation with God. It’s my checking in with him, and through writing it I try to discern his voice in my head (amidst the storms and noise) and his hand in my life and in the people and events around me.
That done, I run back home, and start my day.
It’s been a good pattern, but the blankety-blank virus has messed it up. This week when I went to Starbucks the store was open, but the chairs and tables were gone. I got my coffee, and enjoyed a bit of a chat with one of my familiar baristas (the clientele was absent, apart from me). And then I had to run back home. I did write in my journal once I got back home. So, this interrupted morning pattern will work. It’s actually a very small thing, as I said at the first, even dull and pedestrian. But it’s a sign.
More dramatic memories occur. Twenty years ago, following a lunch, walking back to the car, my wife was slow. I was impatient but also thought her brain, which was diseased, might need a challenge. So I went off in front of her towards the car. Then I heard the thunk. She had fallen face down on the concrete. Her glasses were broken. She was not responding to speech.
An ambulance arrived; twelve hours or so later, she was released from the emergency room. Diagnosis: concussion.
One wants, in a situation like that, to rewind the film, to go back to that ill-fated decision. Would that I had stayed beside her, letting her hold my arm! Would that she had never fallen! But life is not a film with a rewind button.
The afternoon, the evening, the days that followed: Interrupted.
Deeper than our sense of guilt, deeper than our good desire for a settled routine that advances health of body and soul, deeper than anything else in this world is the reality of interruption. There is nothing we hang on to, and no plan that we make, that will not be interrupted in the end. Death is the Great Interrupter. All other interruptions, from a closed coffee shop up to an emergency room visit, are just practices.
Your life, everyone’s life, has been interrupted in unexpected ways in the past few weeks. These interruptions are practice exercises. They are opportunities for us to be ready to face, whenever it comes, the Great Interruption.
On the web. My sermon on Job 2:7-13, given at St. John’s in Montgomery, Ala., on March 4, is here (both audio and text): https://stjohnsmontgomery.org/audio/lenten-wednesday-noon-sermon-march-4-2020/