In Mark 6:31-32 Jesus was speaking to his disciples. 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.
What a beautiful invitation!
I love a good invitation! The most enjoyable ones align with my heart’s desires, interests & the people I enjoy. With the acceptance of an invitation, there is no coercion, no manipulation, no guilting- you have the freedom to choose. Once accepted, the event gets written on a calendar, in a planner, or logged in your phone.
We tend to fill our calendars going from one thing to the next. Many (if not most) are good things. Work, school, service, meetings, church, and so on.
In Mark 6:31, right in the middle of the disciples’ chatter about ‘all they had done and taught’, all they were doing, Jesus redirects and invites them to retreat and replenish.
I can’t help but wonder if there was ‘resistance’ from them to accept the invitation. I wonder if they thought, ‘Really? Now? There is so much to do!’ Or ‘Let us finish just one more thing!’ (I’m good at this one). Did they even recognize what Jesus seemed to know- their need for it?
Or, maybe they sighed with relief at the permission to rest…
It’s worth considering, do you resist this invitation in your own life? Need permission? And If so, why?
For the disciples, the invitation to retreat also came on the heels of learning about the death of John the Baptist. They were not only busy with good work, but navigating the pain, struggle, and grief of life. Sound familiar? Celebrations, work, grief, struggle…
With so much to distract, it’s easy to forget this invitation to come away ‘by myself and rest.’
But, the fast-paced, calendar, event-driven, commercialized culture we live in leaves little time for any depth of reflection. We may not even recognize how the noise of life (which feels satisfying to some degree) is leaving us empty and tired.
Right in the middle of the pain and our ‘busy’, we are invited to ‘come away’.
Unfortunately, the idea of retreat has taken on new meaning.
A retreat in the business world has come to mean a long meeting from which you cannot go home and involves longer hours used for strategic planning, problem solving & community building. And therefore, less rest.
In the military, it’s used when troops are losing ground, tired and have too many casualties.
With a strategic withdrawal though, we “rest, tend to wounds, stop the enemy’s momentum and get a better view of life’s battles.”
Author, Ruth Haley Barton, uses the metaphor of a ship entering a lock.
A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways.
They are used to make a river more easily navigable or to allow a canal to cross land that is not level. A ship goes into this place, engines go off, doors are locked and it just sits. There is nothing for it to do but wait. The water fills and buoys it to a new level.
When we get still and quiet like the ship, we are buoyed to new levels for our journey.
Barton says, “…I no longer see retreat as a self-indulgent luxury or as a rhythm that can wait for times when I am less busy. I see it as an essential for long-term sustainability and life-sustaining connection with the One who enlivens my soul and empowers my service.”
To say no to our compulsive doing is uncomfortable in the short term, but relinquishment is one of the most essential invitations of retreat. True inner retreat requires that we relinquish all our attempts to fill the void in the usual ways and peer into our loneliness and emptiness long enough to find God there.
Should you choose to accept his ongoing invitation, mark it on your calendar, then rest, reflect and connect with the One who heals, restores and ‘buoys’ us.