A Time for Solitude and Rest – Reflection for 22 JUL 2018
As the disciples return from their journey throughout the villages proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, calling the people to repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick, they receive the news that John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Jesus invites them to, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.”
Take a moment to picture in your own life what it might look like to go somewhere and actually rest. What might it be like to experience a day or more without feeling the need to constantly entertain yourself or others? I wonder if, like Ruth Barton, I would become “awake and alert to a level of overstimulation and exhaustion that I had come to associate with normal Christian living.”
Even as I look at recent vacations, I realize that they have been more filled with activity than rest. Time off has become just as filled with the desire to pack everything in and just as fueled by the fear of missing out on something as “normal” life. If I find a few moments in the day to sit quietly, either my mind races to catalog all the things that I haven’t done or all the things I need to do. My mind turns to entertainment or planning instead of true rest. When I look at the fascinating technology on my wrist that tells me how long and how well I sleep each night, I start to wonder if like my mind, my body has forgotten how to truly rest. I’m not certain that I even want to submit my prayer life to this type of examination for fear that I would find that my spirit has also forgotten how to rest.
As we add grief to the disciples level of physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion from their missionary ministry, their need for rest reaches an emergent level. It doesn’t take much effort for me to find examples from my limited experience in pastoral ministry of the detrimental impact of not taking the time to grieve. Perhaps one of the reasons we resist solitude so fiercely is the recognition that in solitude, God will invite us into the terrifying process of letting grace heal the wounds of our grief.
So it comes as a great surprise to me that on the way to the rejuvenating promise of retreat, Jesus stops and ministers to the crowd that has followed them. Instead of rest, the disciples find themselves once again at work. The key difference between Jesus’ reason for delaying rest and my own excuses is that we find Jesus is moved by compassion whereas I am more often moved by compulsion.
We also find that in the miraculous grace that ensues all who ate, the disciples and the crowds, were satisfied. Yet, there remains a distance between satisfied and restored. I invite you to consider today the ways that you need the deep, penetrating rest of solitude in retreat. I invite you to consider the reasons you are resisting this rest. Are they reasons of compassion or compulsion? I invite you to come to the Table today and be satisfied, and I invite you to consider a retreat to be restored.