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.
There is something both beautiful and poignant about Jesus’ response to the disciples’ activity. When they come back to tell about all they’d done, he doesn’t greet them with praise or encouragement. That might seem odd to us who live in the “age of affirmation.” Nor does he correct them or do an assessment of their work, as one might expect from a teacher.
Rather, he looks deeper and sees their need. They are weary, tired, worn out by the constant coming and going of the crowds that follow them. And so rather than praise or affirm, encourage or critique, Jesus invites them to come away, to find a moment of solitude, and to rest. There will be time for praise and instruction later. What is most needful now is rest.
There is wisdom here that all of us need to hear. There is a time for activity and a time for rest. We live in a culture that is much better equipped to help us meet the first need but often tempts us to ignore the latter. Yet these are not two different options, they are two symbiotic elements that together create a purposeful life. You cannot do without times of not doing.
We know this…partially. That is, while we know we need both, we consign doing to the daytime and rest to night. But our nights keep getting shorter, illumined and interrupted by the relentless glare of artificial light and the piercing glow of the computer screen. And, besides, this isn’t just about rest, it is about retreat, about a change, about solitude and a time together. Jesus doesn’t tell them “go sleep it off; we’ll be back at it tomorrow.” He says, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
Who do you have in your life to tell you that? I think our senses have been dulled by a culture that confuses frenetic activity with meaningful action. And so we sometimes miss the signals of our spirit telling us we need to “come away for a while.” For this reason, it’s important to cultivate trusting relationships with folks who can tell us the truth, who can speak the Spirit’s truth to us in love.
And it’s important to make retreat and rest a practice. (I’d call it a discipline, but I’m worried that sounds like too much work! ). That’s the beauty of Sabbath, an invitation to stop, to desist, to unplug (literally), to come away, to find some quiet, to rest. And it’s the importance of devotions, a chance to be quiet, to let the email simmer a while and the phone rest mute for a time in order to spend a few moments with our Lord and receive, in return, rest for the body, renewal for the spirit, and bread for the journey.
I hope you find a few moments today to “come away” and rest a while. You need it. Even more, you deserve it. And you – and all those you touch – will be better for it.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to hear your invitation to come away and rest a while, finding strength in moments of solitude and sustenance in time with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.