I love road trips. The sense of adventure, getting away from the normal, the spirit of exploration, the mystery of the unknown journey ahead, those moments of discovery, the joy of good companionship. I like the road trips where the journey takes on equal importance to the destination; where getting side-tracked by a delicious looking river or waterfall is perfectly acceptable because you know the destination is patiently waiting. It's those unexpected "distraction" that make a road trip so special and delightful but you do not have to go on a road trip to discover the delight of distractions.
I have managed most of my life in a disciplined manner, having goals and purpose. I operate by a daily agenda, with a "to-do" list close at hand. I know, for the most part, how my day will begin and end. It is an efficient life. It has to be because of the great many things I must do in ministry and because I am involved in the lives of many people, all of whom are important to me. Yet, I have not always been this way. I have the spirit of a writer / explorer, wanting to be lost in adventure as I live my life in a come-what-may attitude. I love the idea of following unknown trails in the day and ending up in wonderful places at the end of it. Perhaps most people could use a bit of discipline and structure to their day but not to the point of ignoring distractions because often it is in the distractions that we discover what the Spirit is really doing.
I am not speaking about distractions such as TV shows, movies and other things that we use to escape reality but more along the thought of people and their lives that seem to punctuate and interrupt our daily agenda. I use to get extremely frustrated by people who would "hi-jack" my agenda, or who would interrupt my very important plans. I can even feel the memory of those frustrations now as I had to set aside my well disciplined day to deal with someone's mess. However, that was before I discovered that those distractions were people and people were the focus of my calling. Everything else was just structure and I could take care of structure at any time but lives were changing, happening, being lived in the moment. As I came to accept this I also discovered that the day is filled with the great adventures of the road-trip of life.
Yet, there are times I forget and there are times I allow the structure to take on greater importance than it should. I forget to enter into the "distractions" and see what the Spirit is doing but Jesus' example is a constant reminder of the importance of the "distractions". He expressed that he had two purposes; to cast our demons and to preach the good news. The first was related to the second because he needed to cast out the demons so that the people would be free to hear the good news and make their own decision. Now look what happened along the way:
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. (Matthew 8:14-16)
Although we are told that he was casting out demons we see here a very personal touch of healing the sick. Healing the sick had nothing to do with his mission of preaching the good news. Healing the sick was a "distraction", a side trip, an extra thing that Jesus did. The only purpose to it was related to his heart. Jesus healed because he could not stand the sight of suffering. He healed because of his compassion. He did not heal because it was part of his agenda. He did not heal to convince people to be saved. He did not heal to show the "mighty hand of God". He healed because he loves us so much and he could not stand to see the suffering. He healed anyone who asked for healing.
It did not matter if he was in the middle of teaching thousands or if he was rushing off to tend to a friend or if he was in the middle of a banquet, Jesus was willing to be distracted by the needs of people. Some of the things that have attracted us to Jesus are found in those moments; the man being lowered down into Peter's house by his friends, the woman who touched the edge of his clothing out of desperation, the blind man who called out even though the crowd was telling him to shut up, the desperate father whose daughter lay dying. All of these and so many more were things that happened as interruptions to Jesus' day, to his purpose, yet he never hesitated to respond. In truth, the cry of an earnest heart is no distraction to Jesus but is a joy and delight to which his heart responds with gladness.
It we could discover the joy of the "distraction" in our day we may find what we have been looking for most of our life. If we could stop seeing people as an interruption and begin seeing them as our purpose we would be able to make better sense out of things. If we could understand the heart of compassion that turns us into great adventurers we would also discover our "joie de vivre" as we walk in the same footsteps of Jesus, who spent his life as a "drink offering", being poured out into the lives of anyone who called on him. If Jesus could do this in the flesh, and he has left us here to carry on, I think it may be important for us to grasp this lesson.