A Time To Rest, July 19. 2012

Mark 6:30-32
The apostles gathered around Jesus,
and told him all that they had done and taught.
He said to them, ”
Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
For many were coming and going,
and they had no leisure even to eat.
And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 

Feelings of busyness and exhaustion (even the working hard kind) means our bodies have gone into survival mode and this includes our heads and hearts as well. When I consider the most exhausting time in my life I remember my final months of seminary.

A lot happened over my three years in seminary. I became a single parent through a heart breaking and identity shifting divorce; I was confronted with theology, worldviews and biblical history that rocked the foundations of my personal story and Christian identity. I learned through my required experience as a summer chaplain that the only way to truly and authentically care for another was to confront and attend to my own brokenness with vulnerability and authenticity (also that this is a life’s work and try as I might I couldn’t rush it or do it perfectly).

On top of all of that I easily read over one hundred books, articles and blogs, I wrote papers, some excellent and some so off the mark I was “invited to write them again.” I did projects and wrote curriculum and children’s stories and painted the scriptures in my own language. I lost countless nights of sleep reading, working, writing and talking to seminary friends as we wrestled with and attempted to internalize all this information.

I remember in the final days of my last semester standing in line at the Starbucks near my seminary. I looked at the menu and seriously considered purchasing the giant boxed coffee for 8-12 people, just for myself. I remember thinking to myself, “I am so tired.” In my head, I had this conversation with my body: “You can do this body, just a few more days, I know you’re exhausted, hungry for quiet meals and full nights of sleep, I know you’ve been pushed to the very limit but seriously, a few more days and then we can sleep.”

It wasn’t very long after graduation that I was able to look back on this experience and ask myself some hard questions. Why did I believe I had to get through graduate school in three years like everyone else? How had my relationships suffered as I plowed through this experience single-mindedly?  Was there a little pride and stubbornness mixed in there with my sense of call? Why the sense of urgency, the tremendous immediacy? Even in the gospel of Mark where almost every story is punctuated with the urgent word immediatelyJesus says,

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
Find your own ‘deserted places’ whether in small momentary doses or daylong retreats. Full and fulfilling lives don’t have to equal crazy busy ones. The pace at which we live and move will naturally ebb and flow throughout our lives, at times it will pick up and at other it may even feel as if it is crawling. Jesus invites us to pay attention to the pace. To take time to rest in God no matter what speed we are traveling.

And listen to the quiet spaces,
God will be with you if the quiet produces tears,
God will be present if the quiet causes laughter,
God will move in your heart if the quiet exposes wounds,
God will protect you if the quiet uncovers fears,
God will surround you with love
and the quiet will bring God’s companionship.