Most of the time I feel pressed for time. A confession – I am addicted to saying “yes” to offers, invitations, and projects! I do this so often that my wife has to remind me that, as of now, I do not have the gift of bi-location! Because of this addiction, I frequently find myself stressed over deadlines, commitments, and projects yet to be completed. And, when I’m tempted with impatience (as I often am) I have to remind myself in repentance that most of this stress is self-induced!
But I really want to accomplish all the things I have committed to! I want to serve on this or that committee (a word I am increasingly convinced is antithetical to true Christian life!) and I really believe in this or that project. So what is my solution? Well, first of all, I have to repent for the prideful notion that I “must” be involved in all this, as if “my” voice is “absolutely necessary” to achieve the goals of the projects. Really? Can there be a more prideful attitude than that?
Next, I MUST carve out a “lonely place” to recoup my energies and my strength and recharge my creativity! And I learned this important lesson from today’s Gospel Lesson. I won’t quote the whole thing, but let’s look at this relevant section of our Lesson today in Mark 6:30-45.
At that time, the apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, 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 lonely place by themselves.
The disciples had been sent out two by two to multiply the message of the Lord throughout the land. You see, by God choosing to self-limit by becoming incarnate, He offered us the unimagined honor and opportunity to be His Hands and Feet and Voice to our world. The Lord offers us this dignity, not because He “can’t” do it without us, but because He knows if we participate in sharing His message with His world, we will be challenged and changed for the better; we will discover our true purpose!
But this task requires us also to humbly recognize our limitations and our need for balance in our lives. The Lord receives His disciples back from their work and He recognizes their weariness, their fatigue, and their depleted strength. He knows two truths that the disciples may be tempted to ignore: First, if they don’t rest, their work will suffer; and Second, if their work is out of balance with the reality of their limitations, they will destroy themselves AND discredit their message. This poverty of balance will hurt both the messenger and those who NEED to hear the message!
In spite of all this, the crowd sees the disciples and the Lord going to their “lonely place” to rest and they follow them. When the Lord sees the crowd He has compassion on them and teaches them and ministers to them. Of course, you know the rest of the story; because it’s a lonely place the crowd needs food and the disciples want to send them away but the Lord feeds the 5000 miraculously!
Today, you were not meant to never rest. You were not meant to be so focused on yourself and your “need” for accomplishment that you abuse yourself, your family, and even your work with the prideful illusion of your own necessity. You were meant for the balance of sometimes getting to a “lonely place” for solitude, quiet, and rest. This is true of all of us, even a certain clergyman foolishly deluded by his own pride! So create a space in your day for some quiet. Step away from the keyboard, the monitor, the desk, or the incessant “worry” of your “to do” list. Sit still, even if it’s just for a moment, and embrace some solitude in your day. Say the Jesus Prayer and meet Christ in a “lonely place” so His grace can refresh you so you can be Orthodox on Purpose.