Life, Interrupted.

Maybe love is nothing more

than a willingness to be



– from a Methodist Church sign



            Ten years ago Angelina Jolie won an Academy Award for her role as Lisa, a young runaway sociopath in the movie Girl, Interrupted.  Since that time this phrase about interruptions has been used in many places, including the latest book by religion professor Bart Ehrman, called Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them).  In our age of constant distraction and disconnection, how do we handle interruptions?

            Regardless of what we may think about Angelina Jolie’s acting ability or her personal life, it seems she is committed to being part of the solution to the suffering of the children of our world.  Jolie has been on global field missions, meeting with refugees and displaced persons in more than twenty countries.  She was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in 2001, joining other celebrities around the world who use their talent and fame to advocate for refugees.  “We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering,” she said on that occasion. “I honestly want to help.  I don’t believe I feel differently from other people.  I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning.  All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us.”  Clearly, her life has been interrupted by a greater good, if not a higher power. 

In a recent sermon I said that “racism and sexism and classism and ageism and homophobia are old, sinful habits that need to die, if we are to follow Jesus, to become truly alive in Christ.”  When we allow stereotypes – such as “Surely movie stars can’t be authentic UN ambassadors of goodwill” – to die, we become, I believe, more faithful people, regardless of the faith we practice.  Consider Jesus, interrupted in Mark’s Gospel account, not by another faithful Jew but by a Gentile woman with a daughter in a bad situation.

“The story begins with Jesus entering a house where he did not want anyone to know he was there’ (7:24).  Was he tired, perhaps exhausted from all those people who needed healing?  ‘Yet he could not escape notice,’ it says.  How did Jesus feel about this woman interrupting his desperately needed peace and quiet?  Was he still angry with the Pharisees and now with this woman who won’t leave him alone?  Has he lost sight of his mission?  Is this woman trying to help him re-connect with that mission, even though she is second-class?  Is this a conversion moment for Jesus?  Is Jesus changing?” (sermon, 9/6/09,

In my experience, interruptions, especially those that might change our lives, are important.  Some have said interruptions ARE one’s lifework, one’s call, one’s ministry, rather than simple distractions.  Years ago the direction of my spiritual life was interrupted by a woman who suggested that, rather than going to Africa, literally, as a missionary, I needed to go to the Africa within my own heart.  My heart, I have come to understand, is my primary mission field.  “Open my heart,” singer and composer Ana Hernandez ( prays.  Open my heart, indeed.

“Why Women’s Rights Are the Cause of Our Time” was the title of a recent (8/23/09) issue of The New York Times Magazine.  As I read this article and gazed at the photographs of women and children, mostly from Africa, I realized that the Africa of my own heart has been opened and interrupted, more times than I can count, in the fifteen years or so since that woman, interrupted more than once in her life as a faithful nun, spoke truth to me. 

I read that story, and I wept, as I thought of another woman, interrupted from her singing career long enough to write a song, helping me see how my life – perhaps yours, too? – is a series of interruptions:



There is a woman in Somalia
Scraping for pearls on the roadside
There’s a force stronger than nature
Keeps her will alive
This is how she’s dying
She’s dying to survive
Don’t know what she’s made of
I would like to be that brave

She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives a life she didn’t choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes

Hurts like brand new shoes

There is a woman in Somalia
The sun gives her no mercy
The same sky we lay under
Burns her to the bone
Long as afternoon shadows
It’s gonna take her to get home
Each grain carefully wrapped up
Pearls for her little girl


She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives in a world she didn’t choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes
Hurts like brand-new shoes                                 

– Sade Adu


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