Friday, September 23, 2011

Interruptions

There's a quote circulating around the vast, wide internets that is actually quite beautiful. It goes:
When you are exasperated by interruptions, try to remember that their very frequency may indicate the value of your life. Only people who are full of help and strength are burdened by other persons' needs. The interruptions which we chafe at are the credentials of our indispensability. The greatest condemnation that anybody could incur—and it is a danger to guard against—is to be so independent, so unhelpful, that nobody every interrupts us, and we are left comfortably alone.
It seems to be a mysterious quote just floating around in cyberspace, credited to "Anonymous" at "The Anglican Digest." Unfortunately, The Anglican Digest doesn't have their archives online—they only have the season's most recent publication, which is fine, except that this quote only started making the rounds on Mormon Mommy blogs this year (maybe here?) and I know this quote's roots go deeper than that because I found it in a book—page 145 of Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, & Money, under a section asking "Do interruptions irritate me?" This book was published in 2003 but offers no credit to the author of this quote except by introducing it with, "an acquaintance of ours who was very busy was once handed this note by a friend..."

In all fairness they may have cited the reference at the end of the book, but I will likely never pick this book up. It's a self-help book and I usually find self-help books less than helpful. Usually I find them depressing—though I suppose they do have some gems of wisdom in them, as is evidenced by this quote that is changing the lives of mommies everywhere, if only by telling them that the very nature of their life makes them an important person.

I found some further thoughts on the matter on another blog—which is not a Mormon Mommy blog, but a Middle School Leadership Blog—and I thought those words were wise, too, though (again) were without solid citation:
The Poor Clares of Aptos have this unofficial motto and prayer hanging in their community room: "Lord, make me interruptible!"
While visiting the University of Notre Dame, Henri Nouwen met an older experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. While they strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice: "You know, my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions are my work."
That last quote actually does seem to be one of Henri Nouwen's own and can apparently be found on page 11 of one of his books called Turn My Mourning Into Dancing.

On a universal scale it might not really matter who said this quote—after all, it is my opinion that a good quote is a good quote. I totally fell for the Jessica Dovey/Martin Luther King Jr. quote scandal back in May. Learning that part of the quote was said by some grad student in Japan instead of by Martin Luther King himself didn't really ruin it for me. I still thought they were powerful words. And I would like to point out that it wasn't even Ms. Dovey's fault that the quote got spread around misattributed as it did, anyway. Still, it's nice to know where a quote comes from and what the surrounding story of the quote is—what inspired the words, what inspired the speaker.


In this case I seem to be pulling up a lot of dead ends, but it's still an excellent quote because my work is made up of interruptions and I do think that makes me valuable. I kept thinking about this quote as I was preparing to go visiting teaching—the lesson this month is about strengthening our families by increasing our spirituality. The key to becoming spiritually strengthened is to work on being spiritual daily—reading your scriptures daily, praying daily. Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "We prepare each day, right now, for eternal life."

I was thinking about what my goal really is as I'm preparing for eternal life and came to the conclusion that I'm preparing to live "the quality of life that our Eternal Father lives." Then I started thinking about the quality of life that my Heavenly Father has and decided that He is the most pestered individual I know of. I thought of how many times I interrupt him throughout my day...

Morning prayer
Family prayer
Breakfast prayer
Lunch prayer
Dinner prayer
Family prayer
Couple prayer
Evening prayer

And that's not even including all the times I beg him for help in fielding my own interrupters (*ahem* Rachel and Miriam *ahem*) throughout the day (or any other problem I come across, for that matter—for example, we went hiking today and I prayed that we wouldn't get eaten by any wild animals (and to think I snickered when one of my cub scouts expressed gratitude that the world didn't explode that day (perhaps it's a real fear of his; who knows?)).

So I took that rough number (8) and multiplied it by 6,775,235,700 (which was the global population in 2009) and came up with 54,201,885,600 and figured that is how many times Heavenly Father is interrupted on a daily basis (give or take several million).  Fifty-four billion times a day! There are only 86,400 seconds in a day. That's 627,336.639 prayers answered per second.

If Heavenly Father answers every one of those prayers, which I believe he does, that's a whole lot of requests he gladly fulfills. My own interruptions are a very small fraction compared to the number of interruptions our Heavenly Father deals with. I'm so not a math person so I'm going to step away from the numbers now. My point is, though, that for the past couple of days I've been finding comfort in being interrupted—it means that I'm doing something right. I've been able to respond to my interrupters with a little more patience and grace lately, knowing that I'm emulating my Heavenly Father when I do so. 

3 comments:

  1. Since you brought up the number of prayers said in the world, I have to share this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaZDcS-rMf4 One of my favorites - absolutely hilarious. :)

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  2. I love that you added it all up. We do get asked to pray a lot. I remember a lesson from my first primary class (after Sunbeams...what's that one called: CTR1?) Anyway, we talked about prayers and how heavenly father hears everyones prayers, and I was certain i couldn't say a prayer at the same time as my friend because how could He listen to me? After my teacher's answer, I always envisioned God having multiple sets of ears.

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