Finally, I was able to quietly and safely sneak into my long-awaiting bed. The down pillow provided a soft place to rest a tired mind. The light, warm comforter became a gentle covering over a weary body. The stillness of the night, told me convincingly, I had found a place of solitude and peace. But then it happened. A tiny hand touched my cheek. I opened my eyes and there he was with blanket in tow. “Daddy, I can’t sleep.” He had left his bed and made his way like a stealth fighter jet, into my bedroom, hoping his presence would cause me to take pity on his predicament. He innocently believed that with the magic touch of my embrace and the soothing sound of my voice, I would move him into his desired state of unconsciousness. Life as a parent is filled with constant interruptions that demand complete sacrifice, regardless. (Richard H. 2017.)
A knock on my office door while I am trying to complete a time sensitive, crucial report. Merv, “do you have a minute?” There is no such thing as just a minute. There goes my morning agenda.
A telephone call from Mom, longing to speak to someone, anyone, to break the boredom of retirement and calm the fear of old age. There goes my craving peace.
An email, a text, demanding immediate attention to a not so immediate issue. There go my defined priorities.
An unexpected visit from the kids, just as I have changed into my evening “comfort clothes” and settled into a rocking lounge chair awaiting the next release of Netflix's biggest series, on the big screen, with surround sound audio. There go my rest and relaxation.
Hurriedly racing to an appointment when a tire goes flat, the gas tank is emptied, the battery dies. I am on temporary hold.
Rushing to the airport to catch a flight when delay or cancellation due to inclement weather is announced. I am going nowhere.
Just when my bank account has replenished itself, my basement floods, my roof leaks, my furnace blows cold air, my washer/dryer retires, my fridge no longer cools, my stove no longer cooks, my vacuum refuses to clean, my water pipes break. I am broke once again.
The news from my doctor of a serious, challenging health condition. My active, planned life takes another path.
My employer tells me my services are no longer required. I become lost in the employment jungle.
He says, she says, the marriage, the once “for better or worse” relationship is done. I am destroyed.
Our lives are full of interruptions. It is a given. We can’t run from them. We cannot escape. They chase everyone. They demand a response. They crave our attention.
Several thousands of years ago, the lives of a young couple in aspiring love, draped in innocence and filled with life’s promise, were shockingly interrupted. Engaged to be married, they were legally and emotionally committed to each other. But as was the culture and custom of their day, they were required to remain intimately abstinent until the waiting period (engagement) was completed, and the religious certification and ceremony of declaration was fulfilled. Then, for her and for him life’s greatest interruption: she discovered and announced she was pregnant. But with whose child he wondered? The baby to be born was not his. How does he respond to this unexpected and unbelievable interruption to both their lives?
He was legally allowed to “put her away”. That is, he could divorce her. Or, as the law at the time also permitted, he could have her stoned, put to death for this circumstantial evidence and perception of certain adultery. He could not.
He could deny her, to prevent any damage to his reputation. He could not.
And her family, well they could denounce her to protect their honor. Her friends could mock and ridicule her, for living a life of such ill repute. They could not.
She could run away. She could take her life, to avoid becoming an outcast. She could remain quiet, seek an abortion and kill any evidence of the mob's prejudged wrongdoing. She could not.
But why didn’t he, why didn’t they, why didn’t she?
The answer is simple: because of faith, because of hope, because of love, they remained committed to each other.
December separates us from reality. During this season of temporary cheer, reality takes on a different form. The December holidays of Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and many others before (e.g. Eid-al-Fitr; Diwali, etc.), bring extraordinary and unordinary celebration: excessive drinking, eating, partying, and gifting, Decorations hide. Festivals distract. Special events, movies, TV shows, theatrical plays, church presentations, political speeches, they bury what is our truth.
But what has briefly become our reality gets interrupted. A new year begins. We declare it to be “A Happy New Year” but we know underneath the cycle of life, interruptions, will begin again.
We set goals to achieve, resolve to do better, make plans for a better life, knowing all too much that interruptions will do what they intended: interrupt.
That unexpected baby, born thousands of years ago, became humankind’s greatest interruption. At thirty-three years of age, his time had come, and he began to fulfill his purpose. His message was peace. Not by the sword, but in assessing our relationship with each other, he declared war on hate, on prejudice, on judgement, on greed. He fought for equality. He demanded nothing less than respect and nothing more than acceptance for and of each other. His message was built on a foundation of forgiveness and compassion.
Life’s greatest interruption taught us three things as we end the holidays and welcome another new year. He taught us to:
Have faith. Believe in yourself, and in others. Your opportunity is only limited by your faith.
Have hope. Believe our world will be a better place. Never give up. Be the change it needs.
Have love. Believe that you are loved. Love others as you would want to be loved.
As a new year approaches I know based on empirical evidence there will be times of joy. But, I also equally know there will be challenging interruptions. Unexpected interruptions. Some will be filled with wonderful news. Others not so much. How then should I live my life?
I will remain thankful I have a life to live and will resolve to be content in all things. Life may not be perfect, but nonetheless, it has great opportunity and reward.
I am thankful that I can learn, grow, improve, achieve. I must demand change to self before I ask others to change their lives.
I am thankful that there remains a realistic hope for a better future regardless of existing circumstances. Without hope we perish.
I am thankful for people in my life who love me, and whom I can love, unconditionally. Not for what they do but for who they are.
I am thankful I have the power over my life to forgive myself and others. Forgiveness is a powerful release from emotional captivity.
I am thankful I am in control of my attitude and my response to life is dictated by me. Others' opinions do not/will not define me.
I am thankful I have a passionate purpose. My life is intended to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me.
This wonderful time of the year, of faith, hope and love, they may now be displayed and celebrated as temporal, but I will cause them to define my life, eternally.
Let’s welcome the new year and all its interruptions with the confidence and the assurance of prosperity for today, hope for tomorrow and the certainty of a blessed (eternal) life.
Happy New Year to you, your family and friends,