It’s been a long day. A good day. But a long day. People were healed, broken things became whole, dead and dying things came to life. It’s all in a day’s work. A good, but long, hard day’s work. And Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the anointed one, the chosen, is tired. And what does he do? He sneaks away to a “deserted place” to pray. He apparently doesn’t tell anyone where he’s going, evidenced by the fact that his newly called disciples “hunted for him” and eventually found him, and when they do they say, “everybody is searching for you”.
Do you see what Jesus did here? He disappointed people. The work tapped him out, and even though it wasn’t finished, he snuck away to rest, even though people needed him. Living a life of being a vessel of God’s Kingdom on earth is exhausting work, and even Jesus needed a break. What Jesus is doing here is setting up a boundary. He knows he needs his space, so he goes and takes it. And he presumably doesn’t tell anybody where he’s going, because he knows they’ll interrupt him. Jesus knows just how important it is to take care of himself, to get away from it all and to recenter himself in the Spirit of God.
We need to do this too. I’m really good at it. Well, at part of it. I’m good at the shutting it off for a time, and taking a nap, and laying on the couch watching a football game, but do I really recenter myself in the Spirit of God? Not so much. This is the heart of this thing we call “sabbath”. It’s not just taking a day off of work. It’s re-centering yourself in God. This is crucial to our life in God. As pastor types we are constantly calling people to get engaged in the work of the ministry, which we will always do, but as we do, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Make sure you’re finding the time and space to unplug and recenter yourself in God’s Spirit.
I can’t dictate or micromanage for you how to do that. You’ll have to figure it out on your own over time. For Jesus, it looks like prayer. For me, I know I need peace and silence in the morning. I know I need to be intentional about praying and not just shooting up quick one sentence prayers in the car (which is not a bad thing, but I need more). I know I need to engage in challenging but empowering Christian community. I know I need to loose myself in song from time to time. I know I need let the Scriptures wash over me like a poem. I know I need to get on my bike and not worry about my heart rate, cadence, and speed as I just let every revolution of the pedals ground me like a rosary in the presence of God.
Last August I took a trip to Albuquerque, NM, and did a big hike all by myself. I didn’t realize how much I needed. Below is a video that won’t do it justice, but for a few moments I just stopped and looked and listened, and came present to myself, to my body, and to the presence of God within and around me. Sometimes I return to this short 45 second video to help center myself.
What is it for you? If you know, be intentional about doing it and don’t stop even if it means that from time to time something doesn’t “get done”. If you don’t know, start experimenting. Find a “deserted place”, find an intentional time, and experiment with new ways to realign yourself with the Spirit of God. Don’t give up, keep trying and, eventually you will find your rhythm, and when you do, I’ll bet you’ll find renewed energy and fervor to be such a vessel of God’s Kingdom in your community. You will do so, because you will be filled to overflowing with the active work of the Spirit of God. You’ll be overflowing with grace.